London – Italian giants AC Milan claim they are lining up a £20million bid to sign striker Mario Balotelli in next month’s transfer window – against the wishes of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini.
Interim president Adriano Galliani has been ordered by Milan owner and Balotelli fan, Silvio Berlusconi, to take the former Inter Milan star back to San Siro and he plans to negotiate directly with City’s Abu Dhabi owners and the player’s agent, Mino Raiola.
That leaves Mancini out in the cold after he has repeatedly stated that he wants the troubled striker to stay in England.
Balotelli missed City’s 1-0 win over Reading yesterday and Mancini said: “Mario is ill. I don’t know where he is now. For one week he’s been ill. He came to the training ground yesterday because he wants to train but he can’t. But I can’t [shut] him in his house. It’s impossible.”
The final decision on Balotelli’s future could prove crucial to the long-term relationship between Mancini and his bosses, City owner Sheik Mansour and chairman Khaldoon al Mubarak. The Italian manager wants to give Balotelli another chance to succeed at City after the player accepted a two-week fine worth £330,000 for his poor disciplinary record on the pitch last season.
But City’s hierarchy feel the wayward 22-year-old is more trouble than he is worth following a series of indiscretions and are happy to encourage Milan’s interest.
For their part, the Italian club – who face Barcelona in the last 16 of the Champions League – are close to offloading Brazil strikers Robinho and Alex Pato in January to finance a £20m cash bid for Balotelli.
Robinho is wanted by former club Santos and Pato by world champion club side Corinthians.
Milan are convinced they will land Balotelli, who is a national hero in Italy after top-scoring at Euro 2012 when his country unexpectedly reached the final.
A senior source at San Siro said on Saturday: “Mancini will not be involved so it doesn’t matter what he thinks. The negotiations are going to take place between Abu Dhabi and Galliani, and they will include Balotelli’s agent who is very close to Galliani.”
But it would be a big call to overrule Mancini, who believes Balotelli can develop into one of the world’s best players and he said: “I’m his manager and if he deserves other chances he will have them.”
Having won the FA Cup and Premier League, Mancini should survive in the hot seat despite failing to reach the Champions League’s knockout stage.
However, there are tensions behind the scenes. Although Mancini is happy to have seen Brian Marwood lose control of transfers as technical director, he is aware that Marwood’s replacement, Txiki Begiristain, and new chief executive Ferran Soriano aim to overhaul training methods.
They want to prioritise signing the best 12-and 13-year-olds in Europe and coach them to play Barcelona-style football while the manager wants ready-made players so City can challenge in Europe immediately.
A compromise could be reached, with Begiristain now in South America trying to sign Paulinho from Corinthians. They also have ambitions of signing Neymar, of Santos. – Mail On Sunday