Super Mario’s the best! Balotelli should always start for Italy, claims Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini

By Dean Wilkins

Unpredictable striker Mario Balotelli should start for Italy in the quarter-final clash against England, claimed Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.

Cesare Prandelli is facing a difficult decision about his starting line-up when his side meet the Three Lions on Sunday.

But Mancini advised Prandelli to choose the 21-year-old as he can be crucial in big games when needed.

“Mario should always play,” Mancini said to Gazzetta dello Sport. “He is the best and, with him, the national team is much stronger.”

Balotelli came off the bench to score his first tournament goal during Italy’s 2-0 win against Ireland – but his tempered celebration caused tension between him and the manager.

“Italy are much stronger if Balotelli plays,” Mancini added. “If you look at the other day, he came on, made an impact in the game and scored a splendid goal.

“I don’t want to steal Prandelli’s job because he is doing very well, but I consider Mario the best Italian striker.

“Mario is a champion and champions help you to win things.

“Cassano is a second striker and Di Natale is good but has different characteristics with respect to Balotelli.”

But Manchester City hero, who last month won the English Premier League, believes the national squad will prove tough for his home country.

“England have to thank Fabio Capello,” he said. “I don’t want to defend him but that is the simple truth.

“You can see the work of a good and experienced coach like Capello is in this team.

“England are a well organised side who know what they want.

“Roy Hodgson is an Italian Englishman.

“He is intelligent, good and crafty – the right man to continue Capello’s work.

“England wait for their opponents and hit them on the counter-attack.

“This is the kind of football that we, Italians, were masters at for a long time.

“They have understood that winning is what matters at tournaments and Hodgson has always been a pragmatic coach.

“Italy will have to be aware of them on the break, but also make the most of their own characteristics – technique, speed and possession.

“It would be an error to take on England with force and aerial play.”

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