Report: Mario Balotelli Could Join Arsenal From AC Milan With Puma’s Help

Mario BalotelliPuma wants to facilitate Mario Balotelli’s sensational return to the Premier League this summer, and Arsenal stands to benefit from the sportswear company’s largesse.

Should Arsenal decide to make a transfer bid for Balotelli ahead of next season, Puma is willing to help subsidize the Gunners’ approach, Metro reports.

“According to reports in Italy, the company wants to help Arsenal finance a deal to bring the former Manchester City striker to the Emirates Stadium,” the report says. “Puma, who also sponsor Balotelli, want two of their key brands together, and could even stump up as much as £15 million [$24.5 million] of any deal to make the transfer happen.”

Balotelli has starred for AC Milan since returning to Serie A from Manchester City in January 2013. The Italian striker has scored an impressive 25 goals in 38 games for the Rossoneri, but the team is languishing this season. AC Milan sits 10th in Serie A (Italy’s first division) after 22 games, and a genuine possibility exists that the Italian giants will fail to qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League.

Balotelli’s good form doesn’t mean that all is well between AC Milan and him. Last month, rumors about a rift between Balotelli and AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi arose. Those reports claimed that Balotelli’s behavior irritated Berlusconi and that the former prime minister of Italy authorized AC Milan directors to sell Balotelli for as little as €25 million (£20.7 million/$34 million).

AC Milan and Balotelli immediately refuted the rumors, and Balotelli said he wouldn’t switch clubs before the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

Last month’s Balotelli rumors suggested that Chelsea would be his most likely destination, but Arsenal is now included on the list of potential suitors.

The Gunners recently signed a five-year deal with Puma worth £30 million pounds ($50 million) annually, which makes the sportswear company the club’s official uniform manufacturer. Like other companies, Puma would love to see its highest-profile players join forces with its highest-profile clubs. Cristiano Ronaldo’s rumored return to Manchester United is a similar case to Balotelli’s, as it would take a heavy dose of sponsor involvement to bring the deal to fruition.

The Metro report says Balotelli’s current price is £40 million ($65.2 million). Puma’s £15 million ($24.5 million) contribution would mean that Arsenal would only need to spend £25 million ($40.8 million) of its current transfer kitty to land Balotelli.

Arsenal is reportedly looking to add a special kind of firepower to its ranks, and the world-class Balotelli fits the bill. Even Arsenal’s notoriously thrifty manager, Arsene Wenger, couldn’t balk at that price … could he?

Click here to read about Balotelli’s rumored unhappiness >>

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