Mario 'A lovely lad' - Aguero
Aguero leaps to the defence of under-fire City bad boy
MARIO Balotelli's fellow City forward Sergio Aguero insists there is a world of difference between the public perception of Balotelli and the player he sees in training at Carrington every day.
The Italian striker was widely criticised for a sinister stamp on Scott Parker in Sunday's 3-2 victory over Tottenham.
"Firstly we all know what a fantastic player he is. But those of us who are really close to Mario know that off the field he's a really good lad," the Argentina international said.
"Like a lot of players he has his own idiosyncracies here and there. You know him as a player -- what you see on the field. But I know he's a lovely lad.
"He's a young lad, he takes care of himself and gets on with his own business.
"I'm a bit of a family guy, a home bird. I like spending time with my wife and my son. I love my work and do my shift. That's what's important to me -- going about my job for City."
Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola, was last night reported to have told an Italian radio station that the player would remain at City at least for this season and next, before considering his future in 2013.
Balotelli signed a five-year contract with City in the summer of 2010.
"Mario and Roberto are not married, but Mario is grateful," Raiola was reported to have said.
"Sometimes they fight and argue, but Balotelli knows what Mancini was and is for him. However, I cannot say that Mario will remain at Manchester City for life. Certainly he will stay there this season and the next one, too. Then we will see."
James Milner yesterday also spoke of Balotelli's welcome ability to deflect attention. "You can always rely on Mario to set some fireworks off to get the headlines," said midfielder Milner. "The rest of us can just quietly keep going about our business."
Looking to tomorrow night's Carling Cup semi-final second leg against Liverpool, Aguero revealed a childhood hero from that club whose stability foretold his own.
"I was not so much a fan but one of the players who was my idol when I was a lad was Michael Owen," he said. "He was quite small and had an eye for goal, just like me. When Liverpool were winning trophies, I was looking out for them because he was doing well.
"It's ever since he scored against Argentina in '98.
"I cursed him pretty badly for scoring that.
"But getting that goal didn't stop me from admiring him. He's a top player and a goal against Argentina doesn't stop me thinking that."
Sunday's incident was the latest in a number of on- and off-field controversies for the player since his arrival in English football.
Balotelli has been sent off three times in his City career and was branded "stupid" by manager Roberto Mancini following the second of those, against Dynamo Kiev in the Europa League last season.
There have been other off-field incidents that have sometimes even led to City supporters questioning Balotelli's contribution.
Not least the incident in October when fire crews were called to his house in Cheshire when he attempted to set off fireworks in his bathroom.