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The Manchester City boss believes his striker's presence in the Azzurri fold makes them a stronger side, as he backs him to perform in Sunday's quarter final against England

Mario Balotelli remains Italy's most gifted player and must take to the pitch in his team's Euro 2012 last-eight clash with England on Sunday, according to Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.

The 21-year-old has attracted plenty of controversy during his short footballing career to date, while his European Championship campaign has been marred by allegations of racial abuse as well as petulance towards his coach Cesare Prandelli.

Alex Mott | Italy Expert

Mancini has been a big fan of Balotelli since noticing his talents in 2006. He brought the striker to Inter that summer, and watched as he flourished.

The arrival of Mourinho brought a change of fortunes for young Mario, until he was finally put out of his misery in 2010, as Mancini took him to Manchester.

Forty appearances and 19 goals later, and Balotelli has become a firm favourite amongst City fans
However, Mancini has placed his utmost faith in the striker, claiming he brings added value to the national team and possesses the necessary traits to help his country down the Three Lions at the weekend.

"Mario must always play, he is the most talented [player in the side], and with him, the national team is stronger," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"England are an organised team and to beat them, you need to play with technique, speed and [adopt] a short-passing game."

When quizzed on who he felt would triumph in this summer's European Championship, Mancini replied: "I can see Spain and Germany [winning] but there is also Ronaldo's Portugal."

Italy and England kick-off in Kiev at 20:45CET, and the winner will face either Germany or Greece in the semi finals of the competition.