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

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.

Comments

  1. As a Villa supporter, my fantasy choice would be AndrĂ© Villas-Boas. I’d be more than happy with Martinez or Lambert — Poyet, even. Rodgers would be great, but I don’t see him coming to us. I’d rather stay away from the Raineri, Capello, Sven types. I’d stick my head in an oven if we went the Bruce, Curbishley, McLaren route. I’d be stoked on someone like Ralf Rangnick as a dark horse pick, but wouldn’t bet on it.

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  2. In all honesty, as a Villa fan and Yanks Abroad supporter, that is pure nonsense. If there is anything that might have changed for Villa had McLeish preferred Guzan to Given, it’s more likely that difference would have been Villa sitting in the relegation zone at the end of the season.

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  3. You should have said a “former” BPL manager’s responsibility. And Guzan was fantastic in the BPL games when Given was injured and there has not been any drop off in the quality of goalkeeping in those games. One must wonder how the season could have turned out if the big money thrown at Given was spent on other positions, where performance was abysmal.

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  4. Guzan played very well for Villa during his stint, but Given is in a whole different class. Villa’s issues this year had nothing to do with the goalkeeper, I can assure you of that.

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  5. Can anyone provide a replay or angle that shows Barton elbowing Tevez in the face? I still haven’t seen a good replay.

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  6. Given is about 5 times the keeper that Guzan is. It’s not a BPL manager’s responsibility to pander to the Yanks Abroad crowd. Let’s all laugh at you for thinking Guzan is better than Given.

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  7. This is all you need to know about Joey Barton, and whether or not he deserves whatever suspension he gets. His twitter comments after the game:

    “Still don’t think it’s a sending off. Tried to take one of their players with me. Not my proudest moment but who gives a f&^%, we’re safe and that is all that matters.”

    Whatever suspension he gets won’t be long enough in my opinion, there’s no room for that crap in any sport, anywhere.

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  8. not that big of a deal and tevez apologized for it (not sure what boschini’s talking about with his “apology of sorts” qualification. that was a straight up apology). tevez has made his fair share of mistakes but sir alex’ sour grapes comments about city’s win after the match were just as bad as the dumb sign tevez held up.

    neither is anything to get indignant over. just players and coaches getting riled up about the game they love.

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  9. Let’s all laugh at McLeish now for sticking with Given over Guzan. I predicted McLeish would not be around next season back in April when he decided not to stay with Guzan after Given came back from injury.

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  10. Agreed, it’s obviously great to have a big squad, with all of them making so much money and having so much talent, certain players will expect to play every game. Most teams have players who understand that they are squad players, but it’s hard to understand that if you’re a City player I feel. I can see Nasri making way for Hazard in the starting line-up, which would not go over well with him…

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  11. Keep in mind, conventional wisdom would say they’ll be playing more matches (i.e. Champions League) in the upcoming season.

    More games, more rotation, etc.

    However, your point is well taken.

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  12. It’ll be an intriging summer for City. With Balotelli staying, and Tevez saying he wants to stay too, I’ll be interested to see if City do bring in another striker. Obviously a lot of people think Van Persie could come, and I feel like Dzeko will be moving on, but I don’t see how they can possibly keep Aguero, Van Persie, Balotelli, and Tevez all happy with playing time. They will most likely be making Van Persie one of the most well paid players of all time, so he has to start, as well as Aguero. Plus if they buy Hazard, where in the hell does he play in the midfield? You can’t have Silva, Nasri, and Hazard all playing offense and leave Yaya to do everything else. And that doesn’t even take into account how much money in salaries City will have. I was under the impression they’d have to sell quite a few players before they go on another spending spree…

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  13. It’s a lot like saying if Denis Rodman could ever be normal, but if Mario Balotelli ever matures, he could be a Top 5 player in the world.

    Just from a sporting perspective, I hope he matures.

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  14. I would think Scotland would be fine… Ibrox and Hampden, just need to get another 2 or 3 in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, etc up to par and around 35K capacity. Wales probably might be a stretch for more than two, either way would be easy for travel.

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  15. A pretty class-less move from Tevez, but then again, do we expect anything else from this boar? He played a minor role this season too, what does he personally have to be proud of? Refusing to learn the language in the country he’s been playing in for the last 6 years? Well done you illiterate Tony Montana, well done.

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