Italy coach Roberto Mancini is disappointed how maverick forward Mario Balotelli’s career has tailed off over the past five years.
The 31-year-old now plays for Adana Demirspor, promoted to the Turkish top flight this season, having once been a key figure for title-winning teams in England and Italy, as well as a prominent striker for the Azzurri.
“I worked with Balotelli when he was young and did really well. He was and still is in terms of technique a great player,” Mancini told RAI Sport.
“Clearly, it was disappointing for all of us who knew him as a person and a player that in the last five or six years he was unable to do what he was capable of doing.”
Balotelli broke into the Inter Milan first team under Mancini and went on to win three Serie A titles with the club between 2008 and 2010 before following his coach to English Premier League side Manchester City.
He again played an integral role in his team’s success, setting up Sergio Aguero’s famous winner against Queens Park Rangers on the final day of the 2011-2012 Premier League season to earn City their first English top flight title since 1968.
For his country, Balotelli was a firm fixture, finishing joint top goalscorer at Euro 2012 before leading the line at the 2014 World Cup. He has, however, earned just three caps in the last seven years.
Balotelli clashed with Mancini during a pre-season friendly in 2011, with the City coach furious at his striker after he famously tried a back-heel flick when through on goal, while other disciplinary issues remained common place.
“Let’s not forget he is 31 years old, so ought to be at his peak,” Mancini added.
After spending a season on loan at AC Milan in 2015-16, Balotelli left Liverpool, where he had failed to make an impact, and moved to France with Nice before joining Marseille.
Unsuccessful spells with Brescia and Serie B club Monza followed before he made the switch to Turkey in July.