The decision by Trafford Borough Council to deny Manchester City the opportunity to build a fence around their training facility in Carrington high enough to block out the camera lenses of snooping photographers has turned out to be a rather damaging one. Cameramen can sit in a tree on a public footpath and take snaps of City’s sessions as they please. Any incident that flares up is caught on camera and subsequently scrutinised by the media and fans. It is a problem exclusive to City.
The latest incident to leak out of Carrington is a bust up between Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli. Whereas scuffles between players has been the cause of past embarrassments, this time it involves the manager. It’s Fleet Street’s dream and they have lapped it up. Previous incidents between City players (Balotelli vs Boateng, Adebayor vs Kolo Toure and Balotelli vs Richards) have been brushed off as indicative of training grounds all over the country, but when a club’s manager is involved the problem suddenly seems more serious.
Balotelli went in hard on Scott Sinclair during a practice match, only for Mancini to take exception and order the Italian inside. Balotelli refused, sparking the coming together that was photographed and distributed to the press within minutes. The pictures embarrass the club again and have somewhat damaged Mancini’s reputation. He appeared to be the aggressor.
Today, though, Mancini faced the press and true to form he managed to take the heat out of the situation. He is known as a combustible character, but when he needs to he can nullify intense media-induced hysteria.
“We were playing a game and Mario kicked his team-mate. I told him to leave the pitch, he said ‘no’, and I took his shirt and pushed him from the pitch. That is what really happened – nothing special, no fight. These are things that can happen, usually between players. This was different because I wanted him to leave the pitch for what he did against another player.”
Asked whether the row meant Balotelli would leave City, Mancini said: “No, no, no, no. This is not important – it doesn’t change my thoughts on this.”
“Mario made a tackle on his team-mate that I would prefer to see in a game and not against a team-mate.”
“I asked him to leave the pitch – he said ‘no’ so I moved him off. That’s all that happened and it was nothing more than that.
“Nothing has changed between Mario and me and my thoughts have not changed about him and these things happen from time to time.
“Will Mario have more chances? I will give him 100 chances as long as I can see him trying to improve and working hard for this football club.”
Mancini admitted losing his temper temporarily.
“For two seconds, yes. Three, four seconds later no. He didn’t want to leave pitch. No fight.”
It seems like Mancini’s comments have ended the frenzy, which, in truth, got somewhat out of hand. Gary Neville took to Twitter to make the point the point that incidents like this weren’t a rarity, but the media storm continued unabated. The real issue here is the privacy of City’s training facility – the quicker they move, the better. It’s a bizarre situation that a club the size of City are constantly dealing with leaked images from their training sessions.
Much has been made about Balotelli’s future at the club, too. Mancini’s comments today, and his treatment of Balotelli in the past, suggest that this incident doesn’t signal the end of his time as a Manchester City player, however, perhaps for the first time, many City fans appear to be of the mind that the time for Balotelli to leave may be now. Mancini has shown an almost weird amount of faith in his £24m signing but the striker is struggling for form and continues to cause problems. Mancini clearly wants to be the man who cracks the Balotelli code. He sees huge potential and wants to turn him into one of the finest players in world football, but temper tantrums, poor performances, ill discipline and even the threat of a taking the club to court have all combined to test Mancini’s patience. In a world of indetikit footballers, Balotelli seemed like a breath of fresh air, but City fans now want to see their loveable rogue realise his undoubted potential. It’s been a long time coming.