Milan stole Balotelli from me - Inter boss Mancini

Inter head coach Roberto Mancini has admitted that Mario Balotelli was one of a handful of transfer targets to elude him in the window.

Balotelli returned to Milan on a loan deal from Liverpool at the end of last month after being frozen out of Brendan Rodgers' plans at Anfield.

Mancini, who worked with the Italy international at Manchester City, says he considered bringing the 23-year-old back to the Nerazzurri while the future of Mauro Icardi remained uncertain at the start of the summer.

"I admit it's true [that he considered Balotelli]. I thought about it when we were, hypothetically, thinking about a change for Icardi," he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I thought about him because I know him, I love him, I know what he can give.

"I thought about him because he has to go back to being what he was. But then AC Milan came.

"I want to think of him as the national team's starting striker at the next Euros because I see no better striker around in Italy."

Mancini also confirmed he missed out on a number of other targets this summer, with Paulo Dybala and Giannelli Imbula joining Yaya Toure in rejecting Inter's advances.

"He is a top player. With him, there'd be a big jump from every point of view. He wanted to come, but then he thought better of it," he said of Toure, who ultimately stayed with City.

"Dybala was an objective, one of the first. There were two or three teams after him and he chose Juventus.

"I called Imbula: he spoke very little English, so passed me to a friend. We talked about the project and his role, everything seemed done, and then he chose Porto."

Despite links with Chelsea in the close-season, Icardi agreed to a new contract with Inter this summer and has since been made captain by Mancini - something he hopes will spur the Argentinian to greater heights.

"He's our best hitman, has enormous potential and the captain's armband can motivate him even more," he added. "I chose him as captain, as I thought he needed an extra signal to push him to become more mature.

"I believe that, in the long run - even though they have great players - Mauro will become the centre-forward for his national team."

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