UPDATE 9:51 A.M. THURSDAY: Under the headline “Balotelli Leaves Milanello,” AC Milan posted the following terse news story on its Web site: “Mario Balotelli drove out of Milanello at 13.30 after saying good-bye to his team-mates and the club’s press staff.”
Milanello is the team’s training facility.
More than a month after unloading Luis Suarez to Barcelona, Liverpool is reportedly in talks with AC Milan about acquiring another striker with a colorful past: AC Milan’s Mario Balotelli.
Per the Guardian, Liverpool is close to a $26.5 million transfer deal with AC Milan to acquire Balotelli, the Italian national team member who reportedly told Sky Italia TV, “Today is my last day at Milan.”
Sky Sports New reports only that Liverpool has “opened talks” with AC Milan about Balotelli, 24, who made news on and off the field during his previous Premier League stint with Manchester City from 2010 to 2013. According to the Guardian, Liverpool offered to sign Balotelli on loan, but “an exorbitant loan fee and Milan’s refusal to take the striker back should he cause problems for [Liverpool Coach] Brendan Rodgers ended that possibility.”
Liverpool is looking for added scoring punch after getting rid of Suarez, who scored a Premier League-high 31 goals last season as the Reds finished second in the Premier League standings and qualified for the Champions League for the first time since 2009. While playing for Uruguay in the World Cup, Suarez famously bit Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini and was suspended by FIFA for four months and nine international matches, hastening his departure to Barcelona.
Balotelli has scored 26 goals for AC Milan since joining the team after a transfer from Manchester City in January 2013. He was involved in a number of newsworthy incidents while with Manchester City, including the time when he and some friends of his set off fireworks inside his house, setting it on fire (Balotelli was named Manchester’s fireworks-safety ambassador after the incident), the time he was photographed with Italian mobsters and the time he threw darts at a youth league player.
While with Manchester City in 2012, Balotelli also was suspended by the FA for four games after stomping on Tottenham’s Scott Parker.
Rogers previously said he had no interest in signing Balotelli. “I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool,” he said in early August. But after an attempt to acquire Loïc Rémy from Queens Park Rangers fell apart because of a failed physical and Liverpool balked at the high cost of acquiring Radamel Falcao from Monaco on Loan, Rogers apparently has changed his tune.