Mario Balotelli signs for Liverpool in $26 million deal from AC Milan


On Monday Liverpool completed the capture of Italian international striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan.

Balotelli arrives at Anfield in a $26 million transfer fee and signed a long-term deal with the Reds to help bolster their frontline. Balotelli becomes the Reds’ ninth signing of the summer and was pictured training at the clubs Melwood base on Monday morning before his signing was announced.

[ANALYSIS: Can Balotelli replace Suarez?]

One of the most enigmatic and precocious talents in the game, Balotelli, 24, is now tasked with replacing Liverpool’s former star striker, Luis Suarez, who left for Barcelona this summer.

[VIDEO: How will Liverpool cope without Suarez?]

[RELATED: Profile – Mario Balotelli]

If Balotelli can hit the ground running on Merseyside, the Reds will have got a bargain but Brendan Rodgers’ side know that nothing is straight forward when it comes to ‘Super Mario’ and with his acquisition comes a large dose of risk. After his drawn out transfer from Italy back to England, Liverpool have ultimately decided that Balotelli is worth the risk, as he will link up with Daniel Sturridge in attack as the Reds aim for PL and UEFA Champions League domination.

[PHOTO: Balotelli trains with Liverpool]

Speaking of his move to Liverpool, Balotelli told the club website he is delighted to get everything sealed.

“I’m very happy,” Balotelli said. “We’ve been talking about coming here and now I’m happy to be here. Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England and the football is very good here. It’s a great team with young players, and that’s why I came here.”

Balotelli scored 30 goals in 80 games for Man City during a three-year stint at the Etihad from 2010-13, and has been a big hit at AC Milan since joining last January in a $32 million move. Balotelli has banged in 30 goals in 54 games for the Milanese outfit and will bring his power, pace and strength to Liverpool’s attack which is looking slightly lackluster after losing Suarez over the summer. The Italian scored the winning goal against England at the World Cup this summer but the Azzurri bowed out at the group stage as the young striker failed to impact games against Costa Rica and Uruguay which followed.

[RELATED: Can Liverpool replicate success?]

His on and off the field issues will need to be addressed but Balotelli’s growing maturity suggests he can fulfill his potential at Anfield. His personality make him a superstar in the eyes of fans and the media, as Liverpool aim to quell the exit of Suarez by adding another eccentric genius to their attack.

Let’s see how this pans out. Whatever happens, life is never dull when ‘Super Mario’ is around.

Retailer removes T-shirt from sale over Hillsborough links

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LONDON (AP) A British retailer has withdrawn a T-shirt from sale in its stores and online following complaints that its design could be associated with the Hillsborough soccer disaster.

[ MORE: Liverpool, Man City drawn in UCL quarterfinals ]

Topman had on sale a red shirt with a large “96” on the back and the phrase “what goes around comes around” underneath. The word “Karma” is written on one of the sleeves.

Ninety-six people were crushed to death in the Hillsborough stadium disaster, which happened in Sheffield in April 1989 at an FA Cup semifinal match between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest.

Topman said it “apologizes unreservedly for any offense caused by this T-shirt” and that the “garment has been removed from sale online and in stores.”

The retailer said the design was inspired by a Bob Marley track, with the number referring to the year of the re-release.

Cosmos, Miami FC petition USSF for 2018 U.S. Open Cup entry

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NASL’s decision to cancel the 2018 regular season has caused significant ramifications, with the latest forcing several clubs to be excluded from the U.S. Open Cup.

The New York Cosmos and Miami FC — both of whom participated in the 2017 U.S. Open Cup have not been named among the eligible teams for the 2018 edition following NASL’s cancellation of the league season.

Now, the two teams have petitioned to U.S. Soccer and its new president, Carlos Cordeiro, to rethink its decision and allow the clubs to play despite not belonging to a professional league.

Both clubs do boast reserve teams though — New York Cosmos B and Miami 2 — which is the lead argument from each organization as to why U.S. Soccer should grant the teams an exemption and a spot in the tournament.

Cosmos B and Miami FC 2 will both play in the NPSL once again in 2018, with both rosters largely comprised of senior team players.

As it stands, 94 teams have been placed in the 2018 Open Cup field, as announced by U.S. Soccer on Wednesday.

Both open letters from the respective clubs can be found below.

Brazil’s Luis could miss World Cup after leg fracture

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MADRID (AP) Brazilian left back Filipe Luis has a leg fracture that could stop him going to the World Cup in Russia.

[ MORE: Arsenal draws CSKA Moscow in Europa quarters ]

Atletico Madrid said Friday that Luis sustained the injury to his left leg in the second half of the Spanish team’s 5-1 rout of Lokomotiv Moscow in the Europa League round-of-16 match on Thursday.

The club did not say how long Luis will be sidelined. Similar injuries have required at least six weeks of recovery time and longer if surgery is required.

The 32-year-old Luis was called up by Brazil coach Tite for friendlies against Russia in Moscow on March 23 and against Germany in Berlin on March 27. Brazil’s first game at the World Cup is against Switzerland on June 17.

Luis was injured while trying to prevent Lokomotiv forward Eder taking a shot from inside the area in the 60th minute. He successfully cleared the ball but his leg was hit from behind.

Luis left the field on a stretcher and tests Friday in Madrid confirmed the fracture in his lower leg.

Atletico advanced 8-1 on aggregate after the victory in Russia.

More AP Spanish soccer coverage:

Casemiro: Neymar “would get along very well with Cristiano” at Real

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The speculation (transfer) train keeps chugging along as domestic seasons near their conclusion, and one rumor continues to be fueled linking one of the world’s top players to Real Madrid.

[ MORE: FA Cup preview ]

Neymar’s time at Paris Saint-Germain has been short, less than a season to be precise, but the Brazil international could be moving on from the Parc des Princes sooner rather than later after his side crashed out of the UEFA Champions League recently against Real.

Nothing concrete has been determined about Neymar’s future, but Real Madrid continues to be linked with the South American star, and one current Real player feels Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo would get along “very well.”

“[Neymar] has always been spectacular, since he was 11 years old. He does crazy things,” Real midfielder Casemiro told El Partidazo .l”I don’t think there is any chance that he will come to Real, but you have to ask [Madrid president] Florentino Perez.

“He knows that the door is always open for him in Madrid, but he is happy in Paris. He always says that he is happy there, that he is comfortable in Paris. There are many Brazilians there too, it is very quiet there, but whether it’s possible you have to ask Florentino.

“With the quality that he has, I would sign him for sure. I hope he comes this season.

“He is a great player, one of the top three in the world. He can do whatever he wants off the pitch if he continues to do what he does on it.

“He would get along very well with Cristiano, very well.”

Real is currently in the midst of a historic run in the Champions League, having won the competition three times in the last four seasons.

Casemiro isn’t the only Real player eager to bring in a talent such as Neymar though.

Defender Dani Carvajal also recently told the media that he would be ecstatic to have a teammate like the Brazilian come into the fold at the Santiago Bernabeu.