Brendan Rodgers has denied his club is in for Italian striker Mario Balotelli, telling reporters in Miami, “I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool.”
Despite this, a report from Italy’s Sport Mediaset says Balotelli’s agent – the famed Mino Raiola – is nearing a deal with Liverpool.
The report states the two clubs have not discussed a transfer amount yet, but that AC Milan is very open to offers for the 23-year-old striker and they are hoping to offload him for under $27 million.
Balotelli’s stock has plummeted since a disinterested showing at the 2014 World Cup, and having personally watched him play Liverpool in Charlotte this weekend, to say he appeared lost would be an understatement.
Still with obvious individual quality, Balotelli’s effort has long been criticized, and his boredom for the game has appeared to slowly become more widespread.
Just yesterday, Rodgers ignored that criticism and instead heaped praise on the striker, claiming his club “had a real close eye on him” during his time at Manchester City. Liverpool attempted to get Loic Remy as their replacement for Luis Suarez at striker but the deal reportedly fell through due to a failed medical.
The above report states Milan is hoping to use the money from any potential sale of Balotelli to purchase either PSG winger Ezequiel Lavezzi or Tornio’s Alessio Cerci, but that time is of the essence because Monaco is also interested in both players.
Milan president Silvio Berlusconi confirmed a month ago that Balotelli was set to be sold to an unnamed Premier League club before the World Cup, but that his shocking performance killed the deal. Liverpool very well may have been that club, and therefore it’s possible that Raiola simply reignited talks that existed a while back.
It’s in Liverpool’s favor to get a deal done with Balotelli’s stock having plummeted – and thus his price, too – but it remains to be seen if the Italian can recapture the form that vaulted him to notoriety with Manchester City as a youngster.
It’s possible that Rodgers and staff were in for Balotelli, but after seeing him lumber around the pitch in Charlotte with a few good touches but mostly jogging aimlessly, they changed their mind.
Things have been tumultuous at AC Milan recently, and as the Italian giants look to recover from a shocking 9th place finish in Serie A last season, things have looked even worse this preseason. If Berlusconi is looking to rebuild his squad, offloading Balotelli is a likely start.