Roberto Mancini is a man who's never really been afraid to share what's on his mind. It's gotten him in trouble a time or two, and sometimes he just sounds ridiculous, but sometimes he's bang on point. This is one of those times.
Speaking to press in Paris, the currently unattached manager got to talking about Mario Balotelli, who Mancini coached with Manchester City. Balotelli had a brilliant-but-troubled run under Mancini, who alternated between treating the Italian striker like a favored son and treating him like the scum on the bottom of his boot. Still, Mancini has mostly spoken fondly of Balotelli since they parted ways, and he did so today while also delivering a bit of a reality check for those following Balotelli's exploits.
Mancini says that Balotelli "is aware that Liverpool is his last chance. Only he can help himself now." As stark and potentially dire a statement as that is, it's also very true; after having significant issues at Inter Milan, Manchester City, and AC Milan, Liverpool is his last chance to prove that he can handle playing at a top-level club not just on the pitch, but in terms of the emotional and mental maturity needed to cope with the pressure and expectations.
While Balotelli has mostly kept his head screwed on straight since arriving on Merseyside, his performance on the pitch hasn't been at the same level as he's shown in the past, much less anywhere close to what his physical and technical skills say he could do. That prompted Mancini to also say that Balotelli still "needs to prove what he can do on the pitch," and that while he talks to Balotelli frequently and offers what advice he can, Mancini reemphasized that "only [Balotelli] can help himself now."
It does seem as though Balotelli understands the situation he finds himself in right now, and he certainly has the talent to pull himself out of it. That certainly doesn't guarantee that we'll suddenly see Balotelli explode in to the uber-star that he's capable of being, but at least it gives a glimmer of hope that he can be a productive player for Liverpool still. Goodness knows Liverpool needs productive strikers right now.