Mancini – who has managed Galatasaray and Inter Milan since leaving City – said,
“In a training session, I said to players not to make stupid tackles on Gael [Clichy] because he was just coming back from injury. And then, Mario made a strong tackle on him. I was furious.
“I grabbed him by the collar wanting to push him but he is so strong physically I couldn’t move him. From seeing the pictures, you would think that we came to blows but nothing happened.
“He came into conflict with some team-mates because of his behaviour, and he wanted to return to Italy. I was disappointed that he wanted to leave because he should have done so much more in an extraordinary championship.”
Mancini signed Italian striker Balotelli for City in August 2010, but the player’s fortunes there were mixed. He went on to sign for A.C. Milan in January 2013, and after a poor spell at Liverpool, he now plies his trade in Ligue 1 for Nice.
Balotelli’s international career has been quite similar, he shone at Euro 2012, ended up as one of the joint top scorers and at the 2014 World Cup he scored his country’s winner against England, however, he didn’t make the Italy squad for Euro 2016.
“If Mario today doesn’t play for the Italy side, it is his fault,” said Mancini.
“It is incredible that he is not the starting centre-forward for his national side.
“He is the best Italian striker of the last few years. I hope Mario understands that he has to have a different attitude and think only about football. It is not that difficult.”
The most memorable moment for Balotelli’s City career was when he scored a brace against rivals Manchester United, a game in which Mancini described the player as a phenomenon. In celebration of scoring the opener in that game, the striker famously lifted his top to reveal a t-shirt with the phrase ‘Why Always Me?’ written on it, an image that has now become famous.
“That day, it was like Mario was grown up, an adult, and all the others were children,” he said.
“I would have liked to have seen him always like he was during that derby, because things come so naturally to him when he wants them to. I was happy he showed his true value.
“And when he showed his t-shirt, I really said to myself that he is a phenomenon. Who could have thought of doing that? He’s a phenomenon in the way things come into his head.”