Mario Balotelli has told Manchester City’s fans not to barrack Carlos Tevez when he returns from his self-imposed exile.
Tevez has not played for the City first team for five months but, after patching up his public dispute with boss Roberto Mancini and the club, could yet play a part in their quest for the Barclays Premier League title.
The striker made his first public appearance back in a reserve team game against Bolton in midweek, marking the occasion with a goal.
Strike partner Balotelli believes Tevez’s return is a boost to the club’s title ambitions, but warned fans booing him may have the opposite effect.
“I think the supporters have to be like they were before,” he said.
“They should not care because Carlos is here and, if they make pressure on Carlos, then they make pressure on all the team. So they shouldn’t do nothing.”
The enigmatic Balotelli has courted the headlines on and off the pitch since joining City from Inter Milan in the summer of 2010.
Most recently the 21-year-old earned the ire of Mancini following last week’s 2-0 win over Bolton after it emerged he had attended a strip club the night before the game.
After scoring in the win Balotelli claimed his performances on the pitch were all that mattered, claiming also that he has struggled in the media spotlight since moving to England.
“I don’t like when people talk about my business with my life. I’m really private,” he said.
“Maybe some people think I’m really arrogant.
“I don’t care, they can say what they want. I’m a footballer so the most important moment is Sunday on the pitch.”
In the interview, with high-profile City fan Noel Gallagher to be aired on the BBC’s Football Focus programme tomorrow, he added: “If I go in the street and one guy gets a picture, they say: ’Mario was there’. Someone calls the press and says: ’Mario was there’. They day after that they say: ’Mario was there’. Is that normal?
“I’m just walking in town like a normal guy or I go to the pub. I’ve been to the pub, yeah. Not to drink.”
Balotelli also claimed he would never have moved to City had Mancini, who he worked under at the San Siro, not been in charge.
“Yes. If Mancini wasn’t here I’m never coming,” he said.
“Now that I am here I’m OK. I’m happy.
“If Mancini says something he’s right. I’m 21, I’m still young. I think already from last year I’m bigger in my head.”