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Balotelli and Mancini clash on the training ground

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Clive Brunskill

An oft spoken cliche in the wider world is 'oh, to be a fly on the wall' and in football this certainly rings true when one thinks of dressing room arguments, training ground scrapes or bust ups in the tunnel, all conducted far away from prying eyes. Not so at Manchester City however, where, as I'm sure everybody must know by now, in order to view City's training sessions, far from needing to be that insect hovering around such is its public position you could pitch up a deck chair, kick off your shoes and sit back in anticipation of what may occur.

The issue of this vast expanse of what should be a private 'place of work' being so exposed to all and sundry is another discussion for another time but whilst it not unsurprising that the latest installment of City's very own soap opera involved a certain Mario Balotelli there is a sense of irony that the passion overflowed in the middle of a spell on the sidelines for the Italian following criticism of his performances in training. Perhaps more of a shock though was that it was not a fellow teammate that Balotelli had his contretemps with but his manager, the very same person who has often provided a lone voice of his support against the tide of criticism.

We know that Roberto Mancini is an abrasive, sometimes confrontational figure and for anyone who has read this excellent biography of him it will come as no surprise that he is involved in such an incident given his combative history both as a player and manager. Balotelli - given his record - will in all likelihood face the greater criticism and it is his career at the club that is threatened but equally Mancini doesn't come out of this at all well. The stills that have circulated - and they are just that, without any 'flesh on the bones' provided, only the outcome the reader determines - but they do appear to show Mancini as the aggressor. There are suggestions that a reckless tackle from Balotelli began the incident (in a training game Mancini was also taking part in) but he has completely lost his composure, eyes ablaze and it is he who is dragged away from the situation to prevent even greater damage.

What now then? Recent speculation (once again) linking Balotelli with a move away was quashed by Mancini himself with a number of quotes circulated as to his importance to City's 'appeal', 'brand' or 'global reach', but putting the marketing speak aside and you have a player who has contributed so little to the side during 2012 that any side who did consider making a bid for him will be doing so based on reputation alone and it is difficult to envisage a queue of suitors beating a path to Mancini's door to take him off his hands.

With Sergio Aguero's injury ruling him out for the next two weeks there was a real chance - particularly against Watford this weekend in the FA Cup that Balotelli would see himself back in the line-up - but as Simon Curtis writes in this piece there are one of two lists that he will appear on this coming week, either the transfer list or the team sheet list; and can anyone guess with any confidence which one it is more likely to be?

The relationship between the pair has been described by both in the past as akin to that of a father and son. Having spent many an hour remonstrating with ones offspring (albeit one who is just three years old rather than an adult) I can empathise with this analogy but is the real relationship between the two that of a love affair; a union beset with constant bickering and making up (can't live with them; can't live without them)?

And like all the great love affairs, is this one doomed to an unhappy ending?