The Argentine defender admits his controversial team-mate causes his fair share of problems in the dressing room, but insists the Italian is a great player and good personEXCLUSIVE
By Chris Myson
Manchester City defender Pablo Zabaleta has joked that occasionally he wants to "kill" Mario Balotelli due to the striker's eccentric behaviour.
Zabaleta concedes Balotelli has had his fair share of controversy since his arrival in Manchester, but insists that, despite his problems, the forward is destined for great things.
The 27-year-old believes his team-mate has the potential to vie for football's most prestigious awards, and is adamant the striker has the right club and manager to help him achieve these feats.
"Since Mario arrived he has done positive and negative things," Zabaleta said.
"He is a player, a person too, who is very difficult to understand because you never know what he is going to come up with next.
"As a player sometimes not all you have in the feet you have in the head and Mario is a character that, as a team-mate, sometimes you laugh at what he does and sometimes you want to kill him. But in the end he is a great person.
"As a player he has a great talent. If he wanted I don’t know if he would be fighting the Ballon d’Or with Messi and Cristiano [Ronaldo] but he would be close to being one of the best strikers in the world.
"As a player, as I said before, he has done good and bad things at this club, but I think there is nobody better than Roberto [Mancini], who had him at Inter and brought him here, to make Mario able to be mentally prepared to want to carry on growing."
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"I think that Roberto is a manager that arrived at the club with the mission of consolidating the project that Manchester City started in 2008," he added.
"The club hadn't won practically anything in 44 years and it was possible to win important titles like the FA Cup and the Premier League last year, and I think the people of Manchester City acknowledge Mancini’s work.
"What he has done so far is great, but once you achieve these important things you have to stay the same, trying to consolidate this great project by winning more titles.
"Mancini is the manager and the people have given their backing to him, especially after the matches against Real Madrid and Chelsea. Right now he is the manager and he will know how to work in the future."
The tireless full-back has also welcomed the competition for places at the club, with his own under threat since the arrival of Maicon in the summer.
"Yes, obviously when a team wants to fight in every competition you always need at least two players in every position, to face a long intense year with many matches," he continued.
"It is almost impossible for a player to play in all the matches especially here in England where you have the FA Cup, the League Cup.
"Then Mancini decided at the start of the season after Micah Richards’s injury to go out and buy another right back. Maicon was available in the market. He had worked with Maicon at Inter and knew him.
"It is always good for the team to have alternatives, because then you have a healthy competitiveness as every player wants to do well in order to play as many matches as possible.
"So far I have been playing a lot of matches, and that is the thing that leaves me more at ease."