Italy manager Roberto Mancini believes Mario Balotelli is throwing his talent away but still has time to turn his career around.
The former Liverpool and Manchester City forward is expected to soon depart Serie A side Brescia after failing to live up to team standards set by manager Diego Lopez.
The 29-year-old has played for three different clubs in as many years with his last international appearance now dating back to 2018.
Mancini remains a big fan of Balotelli’s but admits the controversial striker continues to squander his “remarkable” potential.
“I care for him, regardless of all the things he does,” Mancini told RAI Sport.
“I trained him when he was still just a kid, I played him and he was extraordinary for many years. My hope is that he will do something to change all this, as he’s still only 30 years old and would be at the peak of his football maturity.
“I hope one day he wakes up and realises he’s still throwing his talent away. Mario is an extraordinary lad, so kind and polite. I have explained to him many times that he is throwing his talent away, because his potential is remarkable.”
Balotelli has strongly denied recent reports he missed any training sessions with Brescia following the coronavirus pandemic.
“How can you write that I am not training on the pitch? There are journalists at the centre at all my sessions, obviously with their TV cameras!” Balotelli said on his Instagram story.
“I attend two training sessions a day, almost every day! How can you deny the evidence? I didn’t think I was a phantom, invisible to the cameras.”
Despite those denials, Brescia president Massimo Cellino has declared Balotelli’s time at the club is coming to an end.
“I try to avoid legal action and the Balotelli case was blown out of proportion because there’s no football and little else to talk about,” he told Telelombardia.
“He no longer has his head with us and I am taking his departure for granted. It’s not necessarily different to what he’s always done in his career – he’s just a bit anarchic.
“His contract is automatically annulled in case of relegation into Serie B, so with all probability he’ll be a free agent next season, considering our status.
“We didn’t sign Balotelli just as a media coup, we really did believe he could’ve given us an important contribution on the pitch. I thought, because I like him, that he could create something new for himself in Brescia. We are disappointed in him.”