Mario Balotelli expected to bring the glory days back to AC Milan, but he may be ready to defer that dream and return to the Premier League.
Balotelli’s relationship with AC Milan has reportedly soured recently, and the two could part ways in the coming months. Chelsea is thought to be Balotelli’s most likely destination should AC Milan decide to sell him.
Reports of friction between Balotelli and AC Milan arose late last month when Italian newspaper Il Secolo XIX claimed that AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi was fed up with Balotelli’s behavior. He reportedly told club executives to accept transfer bids worth €25 million (£20.7 million/$34 million) or more, according to Football Italia.
On Dec. 28, The Italian club issued a statement refuting the Il Secolo XIX report, according to the BBC.
“AC Milan categorically denies statements that have been attributed to club President Silvio Berlusconi regarding a possible transfer of Mario Balotelli,” it said. “Mario Balotelli is and will remain an AC Milan player.”
Last Monday, AC Milan director Adriano Galliani reiterated that stance, saying Balotelli would not leave the club during the January transfer window, Football Italia reports.
“Balotelli will not leave Milan,” Galliani reportedly told reporters.
The Il Secolo XIX rumor cited a report in The National, in which Balotelli’s agent, Mino Raiola said that the Italian international wanted to leave AC Milan in January. On the same day Galliani refuted the rumors, Raiola denied the National story, calling it a lie.
“I haven’t spoken with anyone,” Raiola said. “They are liars, and it’s low-level journalism.
“I agree with what Milan’s official website wrote about Balotelli not being for sale in January.”
Yet, the Balotelli exit rumors persist. On Sunday, the Daily Star claimed that the 23-year-old wanted to leave AC Milan for Chelsea because he was frustrated with his club’s sub-par season on the field and its failure to invest in its squad.
Also on Sunday, Goal.com reported that Raiola had told Chelsea that Balotelli would be interested in moving to Chelsea, where he would be reunited with Jose Mourinho — his former manager at Inter Milan.
“The striker’s agent, Mino Raiola, has alerted clubs to his client’s situation as they explore the player’s options — and Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, keen on bolstering his striker options during January, has asked to be kept informed of the situation.
If Balotelli is indeed unhappy at AC Milan, it’s unlikely that he would be sold in January. The Italian club is languishing in 13th place in Serie A (Italy’s first division) but is still competing in the UEFA Champions League and the Coppa Italia (Italian Cup). Balotelli has scored six goals in 12 league games, and it’s likely that Milan will look to Balotelli to ignite its fortunes in the second half of the season.
However, this remains a rumor worth following in the coming months. AC Milan’s management is changing at a number of levels. Manager Massimiliano Allegri will leave the club at the end of this season. Galliani, the club’s most influential director, is also thought to be having problems with Barbara Berlusconi (Silvio’s daughter and heir apparent to the top job at Milan). There’s a good chance he could leave as well. All this comes against a backdrop of failure, as AC Milan is unlikely to qualify for next season’s Champions League. A player of Balotelli’s ability and ambition would almost certainly frown at the thought of watching Europe’s elite competition instead of participating in it, and his unhappiness would likely grow in that scenario. Meanwhile, barring injury, Balotelli will almost certainly be a starter for Italy’s national team at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. If he continues to excel on the international stage, AC Milan will have little trouble selling Balotelli for the reported fee.
Balotelli enjoyed a hero’s welcome upon joining AC Milan from Manchester City a year ago. It looked like he would join AC Milan’s list of legends after he scored 12 goals in 13 Serie A games in 2012-13, but he Milan’s downturn could prompt him to leave the club he supported as a boy and return to England — where his sacred and profane moments (on and off the field) simultaneously made him one of the English game’s biggest heroes and villains.