Tuesday Kickoff: Balotelli to return to City, Villa begins coaching search & more

Tuesday Kickoff: Balotelli to return to City, Villa begins coaching search & more

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Tuesday Kickoff: Balotelli to return to City, Villa begins coaching search & more

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BalotelliMancini (Getty Images)

By JOHN BOSCHINI

It looks like Mario Balotelli isn't going anywhere.

In a complete reversal from barely a month ago, Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini confirmed that the unpredictable Italian striker will return to the Etihad next season. Mancini had suggested Balotelli would be sold in the summer after being sent off against Arsenal in April, but rumors over a swap deal with AC Milan for Zlatan Ibrahimovic were quickly squashed and now Mancini says Balotelli is "101 percent certain to remain with the club."

Balotelli was included in Italy's preliminary squad for the 2012 European Championship after Italy manager Cesare Prandelli dropped the 21-year-old earlier in the year over behavioral concerns.

This follows the return of Carlos Tevez, who looked certain to leave City after a falling out with Mancini. However, the Argentinian striker returned after almost a half-year absence to play a vital role in City's late title charge. 

Here are some more stories to kick off your Tuesday:

MCLEISH OUT AT VILLA; MARTINEZ ON SHORTLIST

Alex McLeish's tumultuous tenure at Aston Villa has come to an end.

Aston Villa chairman Randy Lerner fired the manager on Monday following Villa's 2-0 loss to Norwich in Sunday's finale. Villa narrowly avoided relegation this season, finishing in 16th place and just two points off the drop. McLeish was unpopular from the beginning of the season and had the misfortune of missing key players for long spells due to injury.

Roberto Martinez, who was pursued by Lerner last summer, is again at the top of the list of potential replacements. Martinez orchestrated Wigan's late-season surge to avoid relegation and secure an eighth-consecutive season in the Premier League. Norwich City manager Paul Lambert is also being mentioned, but Norwich seem determined to hang on to their manager.

CITY APOLOGIZE FOR TEVEZ SIGN

Carlos Tevez has a knack for making the wrong kind of headlines.

While riding a bus through the streets of Manchester during Manchester City's title parade Monday, Tevez held up a sign given to him by a fan in the crowd that said "RIP Fergie," an obvious dig at Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson.

Manchester City apologized for the incident, with a spokesperson telling The Guardian (UK), "The creation of the tasteless material is in itself reprehensible and in accepting and brandishing it, Carlos has made a significant error of judgment. The club wishes to express its sincerest apologies to Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United Football Club for any offence or distress caused."

Tevez himself issued an apology of sorts as well, saying, "I got carried away in the excitement of the moment and I certainly didn't mean any disrespect to Sir Alex Ferguson, who I admire as a man and a manager."

BARTON FACES LENGTHY BAN

Joey Barton's season came to an ugly end on Sunday when he was sent off against Manchester City, and it doesn't look like the English midfielder will get a shot at redemption anytime soon.

Barton will receive an automatic four-match ban for elbowing Carlos Tevez in the face in the second half of Sunday's game, but his real punishment might come from kicking Sergio Aguero after the red card was shown and then facing off against Vincent Kompany. The English FA has charged Barton with two counts of violent conduct and will announce what many believe will be a lengthy suspension soon.

The incident casts serious doubts over Barton's future at QPR. His contract runs until 2015, but manager Mark Hughes is reportedly interested in selling the 29-year-old midfielder.

SPAIN ANNOUNCES PRELIMINARY SQUAD

With several key players still involved in club competitions, Spain manager Vicente del Bosque has selected an unorthodox squad for two European championship warm-up friendlies set for later this month. Chelsea players are unavailable due to the Champions League final with Barcelona and Athletic Bilbao set to square off in the Copa del Rey final, thus explaining the absence of players like Xavi, Iniesta and Juan Mata.

Real Betis midfielder Benat Etxebarria earns his first call-up since representing the U-17s in 2005, while defender Raul Albiol also gets the nod despite a lack of playing time at Real Madrid. 

Spain plays Serbia on May 26 before taking on South Korea four days later. Del Bosque said he will decide on which Chelsea players to take to Poland and Ukraine, including the inconsistent Fernando Torres, on May 21st. He also did not rule out the possibility of including David Villa, the Barcelona striker who missed most of the season with a broken leg.

CELTIC NATIONS PREPARE EURO 2020 BID

The nations of Scotland, Wales and Ireland have officially revealed interest in submitting a bid to co-host the 2020 European Championship. The three nations, which are independent in sporting terms, joins Turkey as the only other interested party so far. Turkey's bid is in chaos due to recent match-fixing scandals and Istanbul's desire to host the summer Olympics in the same year.

The three nations would need to identify 10 stadiums as the field expands from 16 teams to 24 in 2016. Serious doubts have been raised over Wales and Scotland's ability to renovate or build the required number of venues. Mere hours after the Celtic nations announced their interest, Georgia revealed its intention to bid as a sole host. 

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Are you happy to see Balotelli stay at City? Who do you think will take over at Villa? Think Tevez crossed the line? How severely should Barton be punished? What do you think of Spain's squad? Like the idea of the joint 2020 Euro bid?

Share your thoughts below.

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