Paris Saint-Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic believes Mario Balotelli could still yet play a key role in Manchester City's title defence.
The duo were Inter Milan teammates from 2007-2009, with Ibrahimovic full of respect for the Italian, who has netted a modest three goals in 15 outings this season.
"If you ever spend any time with Mario then you love Mario," Ibrahimovic told the Daily Mail.
"Even though he is not always the easiest player for the coach to manage, speak to any of his old coaches like Jose [Mourinho] and they will tell you when you work with Mario you always have a smile on your face.
"He is a special player and a special talent. When Mario plays like he can he will hurt any team in the world.
"Manchester City are already a way behind Manchester United in the Premier League – but if any player can retain the title for them it is Mario.
"All the class that Manchester City have I would still say Mario is the most capable."
The Swede added that Balotelli needs to feel appreciated to hit top form.
"I tried to help Mario because it is true he does sometimes make decisions in the moment – but that is his personality," said the former Barcelona hitman.
"Roberto will know the same as me that the way to get the best out of Mario is to love him.
"That is what he will react best to – and if they can get Mario playing at his best then Manchester City still have a big chance."
City trail Premier League leaders Manchester United by seven points after 21 games.