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Robert Mancini says Manchester City will miss Mario Balotelli

Manchester City boss sad controversial striker is leaving, but insists move is in his best interests

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 4:26am

Roberto Mancini admits he will be disappointed to see Mario Balotelli leave Manchester City for AC Milan but insists the move is in the best interests of the Italy forward.

Balotelli was missing from English champions City's goalless Premier League draw away to Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road as his reported £19 million transfer was finalised.

The striker's spell at Eastlands has been marked by a succession of controversies on and off the pitch but City manager Mancini insisted his side would miss the erratic player during the final weeks of the season.

"Mario was an important player for us," said Mancini of his fellow Italian. "With Mario we won the Premier League and the FA Cup in two years.

"He's a fantastic player but, for him, this could be an important chance to go back to Italy and play for a big club in Milan.

"It was a difficult decision because I lost a striker, an important striker, and he could be important in the next 14 games.

"But it's important for Mario to go back to Italy. It will be a good chance for him to stay with his family, to play for Milan. I think he can improve and I'm happy he will become one of the best players in the world."

Balotelli's impact has been limited this season with the striker scoring just one Premier League goal and his final weeks at the club were overshadowed by a training pitch confrontation with his manager.

Mancini, though, denied he was frustrated with a player he worked with at Inter Milan when Balotelli made his Serie A debut.

"I invest a lot of time with all players," Mancini added. "With Mario, maybe more. But I think that Mario is in the history of the club because we won three trophies in 2-1/2 years, and he scored an important goal in big matches like Manchester United away. He did very well.

"We love Mario and he deserves to have this chance. For me, he was not a problem. For me, Mario was like another one of my children. You can be upset with him sometimes, but afterwards he's a lovely lad."

QPR remain bottom of the table and manager Harry Redknapp will step up his efforts to strengthen his squad before the transfer window closes today.

Redknapp wants to replace Ryan Nelsen - who is joining FC Toronto as a coach - with Anzhi defender Chris Samba.

"We lose Ryan Nelsen now and I haven't got a replacement," Redknapp said. "I let Anton Ferdinand go [on loan to Turkish club Bursaspor]. We're desperately short, really.

"I don't know where we're at with Samba. The chairman [Malaysian businessman Tony Fernandes] asked me a week ago whether I'd be interested if he could get me Samba. I've left it wholly in his hands."

Redknapp added he'd be keen to once again sign England striker Peter Crouch. "I've always taken Crouchy where I've been: Southampton, Portsmouth, Tottenham ... I love him as a boy. Whether Stoke would sell him, I don't know."

Newcastle United, meanwhile, claimed their first away win of the season with a 2-1 victory at Aston Villa that further deepened the gloom hanging over Paul Lambert's side.

French debutant Moussa Sissoko teed up Papiss Cisse for Newcastle's 19th-minute opener and another Frenchman, Yohan Cabaye, made it 2-0 just after the half hour with a glorious, dipping half-volley.

Villa stirred in the second half, hitting back with an early penalty from Christian Benteke, but Newcastle held on despite late pressure from the home side.

"We played the football Newcastle fans want to see in that first half. They haven't seen that much this year," said Newcastle coach Alan Pardew.

Eliminated from the League Cup and the FA Cup by lower-league opposition last week, Villa have now slipped into the Premier League relegation zone to boot, while Newcastle climb one place to 15th.

Lambert tried to focus on the positives in his side's performance. "I've never seen a standing ovation after getting beat before but that shows the effort we put in in the second half," he said.

"We never played well in the first half but I couldn't fault them after the break."

Wigan Athletic capitalised on Villa's slip-up by storming back from 2-0 down at Stoke City to earn a 2-2 draw that lifted them out of the bottom three, while League Cup finalists Swansea City were held to a goalless draw at Sunderland.

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