Mario Balotelli's strained relationship with Manchester City will be paraded before a Premier League tribunal in London on Wednesday when the champions will insist he was guilty of unacceptable behaviour last season and in breach of contract.
The Italy international may appear before the independent two-man panel as he continues to fight his employers over the £340,000 fine imposed last season. City last month rejected the striker's appeal against the penalty of two week's wages for missing more than one-fifth of their matches during their title-winning campaign through suspension.
Balotelli's Italian lawyers will argue that City have acted outside the rules governing a player's on-field behaviour, but the club are adamant that missing 11 of 54 matches through ill-discipline was unacceptable and insist they have followed correct legal procedure. Balotelli missed 20.37% of City's games last term after being sent off for two bookable offences at Liverpool, receiving a retrospective ban for stamping on Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker plus a dismissal at Arsenal. He also had a European ban that had been carried over from the previous campaign.
The Professional Footballers' Association is firmly behind Balotelli and believes it would set a precedent should City succeed with their fine for misconduct. The PFA, which will be advising the 22-year-old and his representatives at the tribunal, claims City have breached established guidelines agreed by the union with the Football Association and the Premier League with the support of member clubs. The rules do not allow a club to fine a player for an accumulation of red and yellow cards, as has happened in Balotelli's case. Premier League guidelines only allow clubs to fine players for an accumulation of dissent and violent conduct charges and the PFA contests City's stance that Balotelli was in breach of contract last season. The striker's presence in London is in doubt after he was sent home from training on Tuesday with a virus, but the tribunal will take place whether Balotelli shows or not.
The dispute between City and Balotelli, who cost £24m from Internazionale in 2010, his erratic form and off-field behaviour has increased a desire among some members of Roberto Mancini's coaching team for the Italian to be sold in January. Only Milan have so far shown an interest in taking the controversial forward back to Italy. Mancini has claimed he intends to use "all the players" over a demanding festive period but having dropped Balotelli against Newcastle United at the weekend due to fitness concerns, and seen him miss training with illness on Tuesday, the striker could also be absent from Saturday's game with Reading at The Etihad Stadium.
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