England braced for return of Mario Balotelli
Controversial striker looks set to sign for Liverpool
English football was preparing to welcome back one of its most controversial characters on Friday amid reports Liverpool had made an audacious move to sign Mario Balotelli.
Speculation over Balotelli’s future intensified Thursday after AC Milan acknowledged the temperamental Italy striker was on his way out of the San Siro.
The Milanese club have agreed to let the 24-year-old move to Anfield in a transfer worth 20 million euros (HK$200 million), according to reports in England and Italy.
The Milan website reported that Balotelli had said his goodbyes to players and staff after training on Thursday morning, suggesting only personal terms remain to be finalised.
The Liverpool Echo claimed Balotelli’s agent was already in the city to finalise the move but that the English giants were looking for reassurances that the player could keep a lid on his explosive temper.
If the deal goes through quickly, his first match could be at his former club Manchester City, the reigning English champions, on Monday.
Liverpool, however, have yet to make any formal statement, but a move for the forward would be consistent with their aim to land a top quality replacement for Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan’s World Cup biting disgrace and subsequent departure for Barcelona.
During Liverpool’s tour of the United States earlier this month, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had appeared to close the door on a move for Balotelli, saying: ”I can categorically tell you that he will not be coming to Liverpool.”
But with the close of the transfer window looming at the end of the month, it seems the Liverpool manager has had a change of heart over the pursuit of a player he has described as a rare talent.
Balotelli’s two-and-a-half years with Manchester City were overshadowed by his off-pitch antics, which included car crashes, setting fireworks off in his bathroom and an incident in which he threw a dart at a youth-team player.
He was regularly at loggerheads with then City boss Roberto Mancini and clashed with some team-mates while producing intermittent flashes of his undoubted star quality.
Liverpool had reportedly targeted Monaco’s Radamel Falcao as their first-choice replacement for Suarez but made little headway in their attempts to secure the Colombian, who missed the second half of last season and the World Cup with a serious knee injury.