Roberto Mancini has admitted hat-trick hero Mario Balotelli might be suffering from homesickness but he remains confident the Italy striker still has a big future at Manchester City.
It has been claimed that the 20-year-old - who scored a penalty in each half and a tap in before half-time as City thrashed Gerard Houllier's wretched Aston Villa side 4-0 - wants to return home, less than six months after leaving Inter Milan to join the Blues revolution.
"It could be that he is homesick," said Mancini. "But I don't think it is a long-term problem. He is 20. It is the first time he has left his family. It is normal for him to miss them."
As for his reluctance to celebrate, something Mancini chided Balotelli about less than a week ago, the City boss reflected: "Every player has his behaviour. That is part of his image. Mario is a good guy. He is not like he is on the pitch. He likes to create this image of being hard. But he was happy because the supporters supported him throughout the game."
The Italy forward will have something to smile about at the end of the season if City continue to meet opponents as ragged as Villa were. Gerard Houllier's side simply had no answer to the brilliance of David Silva, who toyed with the midlands outfit and had a major part in two of Balotelli's goals.
Adam Johnson claimed the other two assists, the first a corner that Joleon Lescott steered home with a near post header that the referee's assistant adjudged to have cross the line before Barry Bannan cleared it.
Houllier, who has won just three times in 14 Premier League matches with Villa, concedes his side are in a relegation dogfight.
It is not a scrap they look particularly well equipped for on this evidence and the total absence of City old-boys Richard Dunne and Stephen Ireland, who had a knee injury but would not have been selected anyway, is a mystery given the performances of those who did turn out.
"Before this game, another three points, which we could have got against Fulham or Manchester United, would have put us in the top half," reflected the Frenchman.
"But I told the players they also have to look the other way. There is a drop zone behind and we are very near. We are in a dogfight for that. We have to acknowledge that."
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