Cristiano Ronaldo makes an eagerly-awaited return to Manchester on Wednesday night, and Roberto Mancini is threatening to adopt an unorthodox approach to stopping him wreaking havoc at the Etihad Stadium.
Asked how he intended shackling the Real Madrid dangerman’s threat, and preventing him finishing off Manchester City’s slender Champions’ League hopes, Mancini paused for a moment before saying, with a deadpan look: ‘We’ll call the police.’
A smile soon followed, but he was adamant it would be a crime if Real’s former Manchester United forward missed out on FIFA’s backing him for the Ballon D’Or award, even though Lionel Messi appears to be the overwhelming favourite.
The Etihad may not be Ronaldo’s happiest hunting ground, after just one goal in five games there and two red cards in his last three appearances, but Mancini summed up the task facing City by saying: ‘I just hope he can have a bad night on Wednesday because, when you come up against a player who can score one or two goals every game, it is difficult,’ he said.
‘Ronaldo is a top player and he deserves to win the Ballon d’Or. He scored so many goals last year, and that helped Real finish above Barcelona in La Liga. He and Messi are the best players in the world, but what he did to make Real champions has to count in his favour.
‘I hope he can have a bad night on Wednesday, but when you come up against a player who can score one or two goals every game, it is difficult.
‘For him, it will be a big occasion, returning to Manchester, but it is an important night for Real as well, because they want to keep progressing towards the second stage.’
Ronaldo scored a late winner when City lost 3-2 at the Bernabeu in the opening game of this season’s Champions League, and Mancini believes that loss was the catalyst for City’s poor form in their next three group games.
‘If we had come back from the Bernabeu with a good result it would have probably changed this group for us,’ he said. ‘It was really disappointing. It’s not easy to play there and in the first half they played better than us, but the match totally changed in the second half and, when you are 2-1 up with three minutes to go, you should be very strong to close the game.
‘I think that we don’t have any chance to go to the second stage, but football is strange. I think for the fans it’s an important game because, three or four years ago, City supporters would want this game and to play in the Champions League against Real and Barcelona. Now it’s an important game and we want to do a good job.’