Roberto Mancini wants to see the Mario Balotelli of Euro 2012 back at Manchester City - but is not yet convinced the striker is a changed character.
Balotelli has created as many headlines off the field as on it during his two seasons at the Etihad Stadium and shown his undoubted talents only fitfully. But the 22-year-old proved what he can really do with a starring role in Italy's run to the European Championship final, capped by a superb two-goal display against Germany in the last four.
City boss Mancini was impressed but knows it is difficult to replicate the intensity of a short tournament over a nine-month season. Mancini said: "Probably this championship can help him to improve but I don't think he can change in one month. But Mario is an important player here. I think he can do his job here better but I am sure that he will do."
Due to the European Championship, Balotelli was one of the later players to return for pre-season training. He did not feature in the Community Shield win over Chelsea a fortnight ago and was a substitute as the champions began their Barclays Premier League title defence against Southampton last week.
There could be an opportunity for him to return to the side at Liverpool on Sunday, though, following injury to Sergio Aguero.
If he is given a start, it will be his first for City since his sending off at Arsenal in April and continue his turnaround since that nadir.
Mancini appeared to have lost patience with the 22-year-old after that red card, which came in a crushing defeat and seemed to have cost City the title.
City recovered and Mancini eased his tone, and now the manager seems fully behind his compatriot and protege again.
Mancini said: "Mario has a big responsibility here. For us he is an important player. We spent a lot of money for him.
"He has done very well for Manchester City and in two years he has won the FA Cup and the Premier League. I think he did well. But I agree if Mario plays always like he played in the European Championship it would be better."
- Roberto Mancini
- Mario Balotelli
- Manchester City