JUST when you thought the pantomime season had taken its final bow, one young fiery Italian provided an encore act thriving with all his trademark antics and furious fireworks.

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Will Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli ever stay out of the spotlight? He is becoming far more popular for his fights than his football; infamous for his infighting and hailed for his hysterics.

As far as New Year’s resolutions go, if Balotelli’s was to finally come of age and work for the team rather than his ego, repay the faith shown by manager and father-figure Roberto Mancini who has fought his corner far more vigorously than common sense dictates, then the extraordinary shoving match with Mancini pictured at the club’s training ground yesterday perfectly illustrates where his loyalties lie.

Yes, he has notched up 20 goals in 53 appearances for the Premier League champions, broke the deadlock in City’s 6-1 drubbing over rivals Manchester United at Old Trafford and starred for Italy at Euro 2012 with two goals against Germany as the Azzurri made it to the final.

But he has also thrown darts at City youth team players, bizarrely back-heeled when through on goal in a pre-season friendly, broken club curfews by visiting strip clubs and has been red-carded four times already in his career.

Is it a case of taking the bad with the good? Or starting afresh and making good use of the January transfer window?

That is the decision with which Mancini is now faced. Stick or twist.

This morning most people in Balotelli’s position would have dreaded taking the training ground walk of shame.

But not this 22-year-old. This has become his favourite run – it seems that rather than catapult himself into the box or make a lung-busting drive deep into his own territory, the casual stroll through Carrington’s gates has become his preferred choice of moves.

He casts a brooding figure at the Eithad stadium. For all his undeniably impressive athleticism and technical traits, surely the tipping point has now been reached and Mancini will be reminded of his responsibilities by his Arab benefactors?

This morning Mancini told the press that his sulky striker will not face any punishment over yesterday’s incident, which he called ‘nothing special.’

The question, for now, though remains; should Balotelli stay or should he go?

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