Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has pleaded with striker Mario Balotelli not to cause problems for Italy coach Cesare Prandelli.
The hot-headed forward is hoping to start for the Azzurri when they take on England in Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final, after coming off the bench to score against the Republic of Ireland on Monday in the last Group C fixture.
Mancini said the 21-year-old is Italy’s best striker, and thinks he should be in the first XI against Roy Hodgson’s side, but has warned him to do as he is told by his national team coach.
“I suggest he plays as he knows, and not to be a pain in the a*** for the coach,” he told The Sun.
“He has to play, as no one else can give England the same problem.
“Prandelli is doing terrific work but he has to rely on Mario. He is too important, you could not leave him on the bench.”
Italy qualified from Group C behind reigning champions Spain, setting up Sunday’s showdown with the Three Lions, and Mancini said Balotelli has the star quality that could see the Azzurri go all the way.
“Mario is a champion and champions help you win,” he added.
“Italy are stronger if Balotelli plays. Look at the other evening (against Ireland). He came on, gave a spark to the game and scored a splendid goal.
“I consider Mario to be the best Italian attacker. Cassano is second, Di Natale is good but he has different characteristics with respect to Balotelli.”
England’s showdown against Italy kicks off on Sunday, and the winner will take on either Germany or Greece in the semi-final.
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