• Euro 2012

Balotelli must start for Italy, argues Mancini

ESPN staff
June 21, 2012
Mario Balotelli must be started by Italy, according to his club boss © Getty Images

Mario Balotelli should play from the start of Italy's quarter-final against England on Sunday because the Italians are a stronger side when the striker is included, his club manager Roberto Mancini has said.

Mancini, who brought Balotelli to Manchester City, said the forward - who scored as a substitute in Italy's final group game against Ireland - was "the best" and could always make an impact.

And he said he believed that could be crucial against England, who he praised as "a well organised side who know what they want," saying they were coached by "an Italian Englishman" - the "intelligent, good and crafty" Roy Hodgson.

"Mario should always play,'' Mancini told Gazzetta dello Sport. "He is the best and, with him, the national team is much stronger.

"If you look at the other day, he came on, made an impact in the game and scored a splendid goal. I don't want to steal [Cesare] Prandelli's job, because he is doing very well, but I consider Mario the best Italian striker.

"Mario is a champion - and champions help you to win things."

Mancini said he believed the roots of England's organised and disciplined approach in the tournament so far could be traced back to his countryman Fabio Capello, Hodgson's predecessor.

"You can see the work of a good and experienced coach like Capello is in this team," he explained. "England wait for their opponents and hit them on the counter-attack. This is the kind of football that we Italians were masters at for a long time."

England's Joe Hart, a City team-mate of Balotelli, praised his "extravagant" colleague and warned that he was capable of making an explosive impact on the game in Kiev.

"I think Mario accepts, with the way he is, that sometimes he's going to bring attention to himself," Hart said. "But he has got broad shoulders, and whatever's written about him will not affect him - I know that personally.

"He is what he is, Mario. There's no acting with him. He just does as he does. And when he's on form football-wise, he's a great player."

Meanwhile, Balotelli's former club president has said people "have to take him as he is" after the forward's show of anger towards the Italian bench in the aftermath of his strike against the Irish.

Inter Milan's Massimo Moratti told Il Giorno: "I have an idea of what he is like because I have known Mario since he was a boy.

"He has a wonderful family, who adore him and protect him, and he repays that affection. But there is something in him that makes him distrustful of everyone, even those that appreciate him. You have to take him as he is without pretending to want to change him."

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