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Mancini eys Van Persie, fines Balotelli

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LONDON, England, March 8 – Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has confirmed his interest in Arsenal’s Robin Van Persie but believes the prolific Dutch striker will ultimately extend his contract with the Gunners.

Van Persie’s contract with Arsenal expires in 2013 and a number of clubs have been alerted to the possibility of a shock summer move because he has ruled out discussing his future until then.

Despite his interest in the Dutchman, who has scored an impressive 32 goals already this season, Mancini believes Arsenal will move quickly to make sure he accepts a new deal.

Quoted in several national newspapers, the Italian said: “We are interested in all good players. This is normal, but not only us. I think all the good teams are interested in Van Persie.

“I think Van Persie at this moment is one of the best strikers in Europe with Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and with Sergio Aguero and Mario Balotelli. I think he is a fantastic striker, but I think he will remain with Arsenal.”

City have signed several Arsenal players in recent years, acquiring Samir Nasri last summer and also signing Gael Clichy, Kolo Toure and Emmanuel Adebayor.

Mancini added: “I think if there is a good player who wants to leave a club, then we are interested.

“But if this player wants to stay, we don’t have any problem. In my opinion, Van Persie will stay at Arsenal.

“I think Robin van Persie will sign a new contract with Arsenal because if Arsenal lose also Van Persie, they will have a big problem.

“I think Arsenal will buy good players in the summer. Arsenal is a top team. They want to win the next Premier League, so for these reasons I think he will stay.”

Meanwhile, Mancini has fined Mario Balotelli one week’s wages after the Italian striker was pictured outside a strip club less than two days before a league game.

The 21-year-old accepted the punishment — believed to be around £120,000 — after being pictured outside the club in Liverpool in the early hours of Friday morning, contravening club regulations ahead of Saturday’s game against Bolton.

Balotelli went on to play and score in the Premier League leaders’ 2-0 win at the Etihad Stadium but Mancini expressed his disappointment and pledged to investigate.

Mancini said Wednesday: “I spoke with Mario and gave him a fine of one week’s wages for what he did.

“This is normal because every player should have good behaviour before the game.”

When asked if Balotelli had accepted the fine, Mancini said: “Yes.”

It is the second time Balotelli has broken a curfew this season — among a host of other high-profile misdemeanours — but he admitted in an interview published Tuesday he had made a mistake.

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