Mario Balotelli still short of fitness after preseason no-show - Nice's Patrick Vieira

Mario Balotelli in action for Nice against Marseille. VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images

Patrick Vieira has told Mario Balotelli he must lose more weight before he can get back to his best form for Nice and begin to play regularly.

Balotelli arrived two weeks late for the start of preseason training as a result of a failed move to Marseille, and the former Manchester City and Liverpool striker was reportedly overweight when he did turn up.

That left Balotelli short of the shape that had brought him 33 goals in just 51 Ligue 1 appearances over the previous two seasons, and in four fitful top-flight performances this term, Balotelli has yet to find the net or even register an assist.

"He came back slightly overweight, but you can see that, he's aware of that," Vieira told RMC. "He came back with a few extra kilos, but we're trying to understand why he came back like that.

"In his head, he saw himself leaving, he saw himself elsewhere. Mario is who he is. He decided to stay with us and there was work to do. Compared to the others, he was very late and he's currently making up that lost time. You saw in the first half against Marseille that he's getting better and better, but not enough to last 90 minutes."

He added: "Mario will always be Mario. He has improved, because he is committed to the project and is conscious of the ground he has to make up. What is really stopping him are those extra few kilos. To lose them, he has to string together training sessions. Then to be good, he has to play matches, and it's going to be long."

Vieira played with Balotelli at both Inter Milan and City and said he had employed a mixture of discipline and praise in approaching his ex-teammate.

"We know each other, we respect each other, but there is the notion of the coach which comes into play," he said. "He's a player, I decide, he does what I tell him to do. He understands that, we spend a lot of time together, we talk.

"It was up to me to make sure the message was understood that it was unacceptable for a player to arrive late. We talked about it with Mario. What happened happened, but I think it's important for us to pass on the message that the club is more important than anyone in the dressing room."