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The Premier League pantomime season has begun, with the star of the show - Mario Balotelli - grabbing plenty of headlines following a familiar display of petulance in the Manchester derby.
The striker was substituted just seven minutes into the second half at the Etihad and expressed his frustration at Roberto Mancini on his way down the tunnel. But who's the guilty party in this particular Punch and Judy show? Is the manager's mission to turn Balotelli into a great player preventing him from being a good player?
Balotelli was one of City's better performers in a first half that saw United race into a two-goal lead on Sunday, and Mancini's impatience was largely owing to his own mistake of not picking Carlos Tevez. It was a poor decision to start Balotelli, who has scored only once in the Premier League this season, and the manager's error highlighted his obsession with his mercurial talent.
"Balotelli has enormous quality, he is not for sale. We are waiting for the moment he becomes aware of his talent," Mancini told La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday, in what has almost become a standard press release during the striker's stay in Manchester. But Mancini's attitude towards the 22-year-old appears, in part, to be motivated by a desire to achieve where others have failed. Jose Mourinho gave up on Balotelli at Inter, calling him "unmanageable", and perhaps Mancini hopes to gain a rare victory over his rival in this respect.
But this ambition is hindering the striker's progress and Mancini's recent claim that Balotelli can rival even Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo served only to pile more pressure on a youngster who struggles with the spotlight. Balotelli is undoubtedly a brilliant talent, but he will never match the dazzling skill of the world's current top two and, as he demonstrated for Italy at Euro 2012, his qualities lie in physical strength, with a short burst of pace and superb finishing ability (when he's focused).
Although Balotelli excelled in Italy's journey to the final at the Euros, he has arguably regressed in the past 12 months at City. In the first half of last season, the striker stepped in to fill the void left by Carlos Tevez's self-imposed exile (with the Argentine repaying the favour here), and he scored 11 goals in 14 games in the run-up to Christmas.
However, after the turn of the year, Balotelli's form began to unravel and his retrospective ban for a stamp on Scott Parker showed that City could no longer rely on him to keep his cool as the title race went to the wire. But Mancini continued to pick Balotelli, until he eventually snapped in the 1-0 defeat to Arsenal.
"I think that Mario should have been sent off after ten minutes," said Mancini, after the striker received a red card in injury time. "I am finished. We have six games and it's sure he'll not play for me in the next six games. I need to be sure that I have always 11 players on the pitch. With Mario, it's always a big risk."
This incident summed up Mancini's reckless approach to Balotelli's development, with the manager refusing to substitute the then-21-year-old despite the obvious signs that he was going to be sent off. The manager appears convinced that Balotelli will mature in the blink of eye, and said on Monday: "He is a player of 22 years old who has the quality to change a game at any time. I hope this moment will come soon."
However, if it were possible for Balotelli to make the transition between good and great in a single 90-minute performance, he would already have reached that level after the Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany. With patience and reasonable expectations, Balotelli could easily grow to become one of the best strikers in the Premier League, but at the moment Mancini is setting the bar far too high.
Matt Stanger - he's on the Twitter.