Mario Balotelli's future at Manchester City was cast into doubt once again on Thursday after photographs emerged showing him in an apparent training-ground bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini.
Media reports claimed that Mancini lost his temper with his Italian compatriot after Balotelli made a reckless challenge on team-mate Scott Sinclair at the club's Carrington training base on the edge of Manchester.
The pictures, published widely in the British media, show Mancini gripping Balotelli's orange bib in an apparent rage, before the two men are separated by members of City's coaching staff.
|A furious Mancini and Balotelli were reportedly held apart by City staff [Eamonn and James Clarke]
An eye-witness, quoted in local newspaper the Manchester Evening News, said: "Mancini ran at him - he was furious. He grabbed hold of him and appeared to try and throw him on the floor.
"It looked like Mario was too strong and he couldn't get him down. Then all the coaches ran in to separate them but Mancini was having none of it. He kept trying to break free and have a go at him again."
Balotelli was also pictured walking to his car in the car park after the end of the session.
The Italy striker, 22, has been a recurrent source of controversy ever since arriving in Manchester from Inter Milan in 2010.
He has twice been dropped from City's match-day squad this season and Mancini has repeatedly warned him that he is in danger of wasting his talent.
In December, Balotelli dropped legal action against City after taking them to a Premier League tribunal in an attempt to overturn a fine of two weeks' wages over his poor disciplinary record last season.
Mancini also chastised him after a sloppy performance in City's 3-2 loss to Manchester United in last month's Manchester derby, in which he was substituted in the 52nd minute.
"I love Mario like a guy, and as a player, but I think it's important for him to start to think about his job if he wants to play well," said Mancini.
"When you have a player with Mario's quality, you can't believe that he throws his quality out of the window.
"I've seen players in my life with fantastic quality who ended up with nothing and I don't want Mario to finish like these players, because it will be bad for him."
Balotelli is yet to play since that game, with a virus having ruled him out of City's festive fixtures, but he could feature in Saturday's FA Cup third-round tie against second-tier Watford.