Roberto Mancini explains what stopped Mario Balotelli reaching Cristiano Ronaldo's level

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Roberto Mancini. Mario Balotelli. There's only one image that springs to mind.

The pair have gone down in Premier League folklore for their infamous training ground bust-up in 2013.

There was only ever going to be one winner in that one, and thankfully Mancini's backroom staff quickly separated them.

However, there were happier times between the two Italians during their stints at Manchester City.

A year earlier, Mancini had guided the Sky Blues to the Premier League title on the last day of the season - and to make it even sweeter, it came at Manchester United's expense.

With 13 goals, Balotelli was key to that success.

There has always been a nagging feeling that the striker should have made more of his career given his natural talent. Granted, he has won the Champions League, the Premier League, an FA Cup, and three Serie A titles, but he has never quite lived up to the high expectations many had of him.

The 26-year-old alluded to that last year when he told Chinese news agency Xinhua that he still thinks he can win the Ballon d'Or one day.

The former Inter and AC Milan forward may be forgetting that no-one other than Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo ever wins the award, but there will come a time when the La Liga stars have to give way to someone else.

Could he have been world-class? 

And while at first, it seems ridiculous to even mention Balotelli in the same breath as Ronaldo, that's exactly what Mancini has done.

It's a pretty bold claim to suggest that Balotelli could have reached the Portuguese's level, but Mancini has explained what went wrong to stop that from happening.

"Mario is a really good kid, but a bit ruled by his instinct," he told TMW radio, per the Daily Mail.

"Apart from when he does something daft, but those can happen when you're young. He has so much quality that, when he started, he should've been at the level of Ronaldo.

"If he isn't there now, then at least some of that is his own fault."

As easy as it is to talk about potential, the players who go down in history are those - like Ronaldo - who manage to live up to the hype thanks to years of hard work and focus.

Balotelli is at least making some attempt to get his career back on track at Nice, scoring 14 goals in an impressive season in Ligue 1.

Should a Premier League club take a gamble on Balotelli this summer? Have your say in the comments. 

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