A scuffle may have punctuated their time together at Manchester City, but Roberto Mancini says he is saddened by Mario Balotelli’s exit.
Manager Mancini sanctioned the transfer of the fiery striker to AC Milan, in a move he says will be good for the player’s life and career.
But Mancini says Super Mario is like “one of my children”, and that he and the rest of City’s squad will truly miss the maverick hit-man.
"We are all so sad because Mario was an important player for us," Mancini said on Tuesday night.
"With Mario we won the Premier League and the FA Cup in two years. He's a fantastic player but, for him, this could be an important chance to go back to Italy and play for a big club in Milan. It will be a good chance for him to stay with his family, to play for Milan. I think he can improve and I'm happy he will become one of the best players in the world.
"We talked. The club asked me what's best for me. I spoke with Mario and I think he wanted this. After three years in England, to go back to Italy will be good for him. We love Mario and he deserves to have this chance. For me, Mario was like another one of my children. I gave him his start in Serie A with me at 17 [with Internazionale]. You can be upset with him sometimes but afterwards he's a lovely lad. I've invested a lot of time with all the players. With Mario, maybe more.
"But I think that Mario is in the history of the club because we won three trophies in two and a half years and he scored important goals in big matches like Manchester United away. He did very well. All the players [will miss him]. When he left the hotel, they were really sad. Mario is a good guy. He lived with us for three years."
It does not seem as if City will replace Balotelli before Thursday night’s transfer window deadline.
But having grown impatient with the irascible Italian’s antics on and off the field, the English champions have decided to cash in- to the tune of £17million- on the player who turned out to be an EPL misfit.
No matter what you think of Super Mario, it has to be said that the Premier League will be slightly less entertaining without him.
And it will be interesting to see if he can now realise his undoubted potential, in the comfort of the club he supported as a boy.