Balotellis becoming a drag

Balotelli, who continues to attract as much attention for his antics off-field as for his performances on it, has been pictured smoking cigarettes socially. Mancini is aware of the 21-year-old's habit and does not approve, but says it would only be an issue if Balotelli was his son.

Mancini said of his fellow Italian: "I know he smokes. For me it is not okay - but I am not his father or his mother! If he was my son I would go to him and kick him on the a***. But he is not my son."

He added: "I told him, for me it is better if you don't smoke.

"I am against cigarettes - for this reason my son does not smoke. But there are players in Italy and here that do smoke.

"I don't think he smokes a lot of cigarettes, five or six a day - but I told him."

Balotelli, who has scored 11 goals this season, was infamously forced to move out of his house in Cheshire in October after fireworks set off from inside his bathroom sparked a blaze.

Mancini said: "He lights up the fireworks with the cigarettes!"

Despite continuing to attract headlines - Balotelli was also involved in a training ground bust-up with team-mate Micah Richards earlier this month - the former Inter Milan forward has been a much-improved player this season.

Mancini has rotated him with Edin Dzeko and Sergio Aguero in an effort to keep all three forwards fresh and in top form and he hopes that policy will pay off during a tough January.

Source: PA

Source: PA