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The Sweden captain has tipped his former Inter team-mate to be pivotal in the club's title charge as they try to overhaul Manchester United in the second half of the season

Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Mario Balotelli will be vital to any chances that Manchester City have of retaining the title this season.

The 31-year-old played alongside Balotelli for two years between 2007-09 at San Siro for Inter, but with City currently trailing rivals Manchester United by seven points in the title race, his first-team opportunities have become limited this term due to a mixture of poor form and fitness problems.

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After scoring just three times in 15 appearances so far this season, the Italian international's future remains up in the air, with reports linking him with a move back to his homeland, but Ibrahimovic feels he still has plenty left to offer.

"If you ever spend any time with Mario then you love Mario," Ibrahimovic told the Daily Mail.

"Even though he is not always the easiest player for the coach to manage, speak to any of his old coaches like Jose [Mourinho] and they will tell you when you work with Mario you always have a smile on your face.

"He is a special player and a special talent. When Mario plays like he can he will hurt any team in the world.

"Manchester City are already a way behind Manchester United in the Premier League – but if any player can retain the title for them it is Mario.

"All the class that Manchester City have I would still say Mario is the most capable."

Ibrahimovic also advised his former boss and current City manager Roberto Mancini that to eke the best out of Balotelli, he must feel that he is loved.

He added: "I tried to help Mario because it is true he does sometimes make decisions in the moment – but that is his personality.

"Roberto will know the same as me that the way to get the best out of Mario is to love him.

"That is what he will react best to – and if they can get Mario playing at his best then Manchester City still have a big chance."

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