LONDON - Twenty appearances, 10 goals, two red cards and nine yellow cards into his Manchester City career, Mario Balotelli is testing coach Roberto Mancini's patience to the full.
So much so that despite his side struggling to score goals and an important Premier league game at Chelsea looming on Sunday, Mancini looks unlikely to risk the 20-year-old firecracker at Stamford Bridge.
"I don't think he will be in the squad," Mancini said after Thursday's Europa League exit against Dynamo Kiev - a match overshadowed by Balotelli's "karate kid" impersonation on Kiev's Foran Popov for which he was sent off in the 36th minute.
"The problem for Mario is he thinks he could be a fantastic player. But when he does something stupid like that, it is difficult for me, difficult for him and difficult for the team."
Mancini put his reputation as a disciplinarian on the line when he signed the volatile Balotelli for 24 million pounds from his former club Inter Milan in August.
Seven months later he is still struggling to mould the so-called "bad boy" of Italian football into his team with some questioning why he wanted him in the first place.
"Going to Manchester City, where all the pressure will be on him, and a lot of stars at the club vying to be in the side I just don't think he will be able to handle it and I think Mancini has bought a real burden upon himself and Manchester City here," former AC Milan and England striker Mark Hately told radio station TalkSport on Friday.
While there have been a few highlights, such as the hat-trick he scored for City against Aston Villa, Balotelli continues to make headlines for the wrong reasons.
Friday's headlines in the country's tabloids branded Balotelli "stupid" and "idiot" after 10-man City were bundled out of Europe despite winning 1-0 against Kiev.
Balotelli has done little to suggest he is learning from the mistakes that overshadowed his career in Italy.
His stormy final season at the San Siro saw him axed by coach Jose Mourinho, clash with Juventus fans after suffering racist abuse and even fall out with Inter's fans during last season's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona.
When joining City, Balotelli said he had left Italy to find "a calm environment". Seven months later, the Italy international's career appears to be descending into chaos, mostly self-inflicted.
Some of his antics could also be blamed on youthful naivety, like when he launched his own personal firework display from the balcony of his Manchester apartment, much to the concern of his neighbours who in a later interview he said "adored him".
"When I score they stick little congratulatory notes to my door," he told Gazetta dello Sport. "At Christmas they presented me with bottles of wine. But I do not drink."
Mancini knows all about Balotelli's personality, having discovered him during his time as Inter coach.
However, with the pressure of trying to turn City's vast wealth into footballing silverware, the last thing he needs as the season reaches its climax is a loose cannon around the club.
City face Chelsea this weekend in a match of vital importance to City's slim title hopes and of their minimum aim of a top-four place and Champions League football.
Mancini's team has struggled to score goals, relying heavily on skipper Carlos Tevez, and while Balotelli does offer goals they do appear to come at a price.
Just as Brazil's Robinho failed to deliver at City, Balotelli is in danger of becoming another big-money flop.comments