Mario Balotelli’s rollercoaster career took another twist on Thursday when he said goodbye to his AC Milan team-mates after training before an expected transfer to Liverpool.
In a brief statement on their website (www.acmilan.com), the Italian club said: “Mario Balotelli drove out of Milanello at 1330 after saying goodbye to his team-mates and the club’s press staff.
Balotelli’s likely move signals a return to the Premier League where he shone, glowered, delighted and dismayed in equal measure during his time with Manchester City from 2011 to 2013.
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The 24-year-old Italian is seen as a natural successor to another colourful and controversial player, disgraced Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, who was sold to Barcelona in July for a reported fee of 81 million euros ($108 million).
Suarez, 27, was the Premier League’s top scorer last season with 31 goals for Liverpool before being expelled from the World Cup finals and suspended after biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Balotelli signalled the move when he told reporters that Thursday would be his last day in Italy. “Today is my last day in Milan and I am going to Liverpool,” Sky Italia reported him as saying.
His agent Mino Raiola was reported to be in England to complete a reported 20 million euros ($27 million) deal. Balotelli joined Manchester City from Inter Milan in August 2010 and, after starring in their 2011 FA Cup final win against Stoke City, played a prominent role in the triumphant Premier League campaign of 2011-12 as they won their first top tier title since 1968.
After a series of disciplinary problems including a training ground altercation with then-manager Roberto Mancini, he signed for AC Milan in January 2013. Balotelli impressed for Italy at Euro 2012 where he scored twice in their semi-final win against Germany and headed Italy’s winner against England in their group stage meeting at this year’s World Cup.
Wenger has no regrets
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger admitted on Thursday that it felt strange for him to see Cesc Fabregas playing in a blue Chelsea shirt, but insisted he had no regrets at not re-signing him.
Wenger told reporters at a news conference that his only regret was that Fabregas had left Arsenal in 2011 and hinted that he still wants to recruit another midfielder before the transfer window closes on September 1.
Spain international midfielder Fabregas, 27, who made more than 300 appearances for Arsenal, made an impressive Premier League debut for London rivals Chelsea as they won 3-1 at Burnley on Monday following his return to England after three seasons at Barcelona.
“I have no regret about that at all. My regret is that he left us,” Wenger told a news conference. “It was strange, but you have to accept that professional players move from club to club. “It was difficult for him to leave us, but after that you accept he can move to some different clubs. Of course, it was a bit strange, but he had a good game.”
Wenger suggested that Fabregas’ departure had given Wales international Aaron Ramsey, 23, his chance to establish himself at Arsenal. “What is good in life is that someone moves out and someone else takes over and he has developed,” said Wenger.
“Ramsey has a different style to Fabregas, but he has developed into a player with huge potential. There is more coming out of Ramsey. “He is younger than Cesc and the potential is there to get more out of him.”
Wenger conceded that Ramsey’s dismissal during Tuesday’s 0-0 draw at Besiktas, in a Champions League playoff first leg tie, and an ankle injury suffered by captain Mikel Arteta in the same game had left him considering a move for a defensive midfielder.
Spaniard Arteta is hoping to recover in time to face former club Everton on Saturday and Besiktas in the second leg next week, when Ramsey will be suspended. “He had a scan yesterday (Wednesday) afternoon,” said Wenger. “I haven’t got the result…. I don’t know how long he will be out for. We will be a bit short of course.
“If it is a long-term injury, that puts us in a position where we have to be creative…” Asked if that meant recruiting a defensive midfielder, he said; “We are not against that.”
“We are like you,” he added. “We listen to the names, but sometimes I look who we buy in the media, but at the moment, as I told you, we are not in an emergency case. “We have the players we want, but we are open as well to any opportunity until the end of the transfer window who can strengthen our defensive department in quality and number.”
Di Maria wants a transfer
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti says Argentina forward Angel Di Maria has asked for a transfer. The 26-year-old Di Maria has spent the last four years at Madrid and helped it win the Champions League last season. Ancelotti says,
“Di Maria has asked to leave and he has rejected an offer (to renew his contract) from the club.’’
Di Maria, who is under contract with Madrid until 2018, has been linked to Manchester United and Paris Saint-Germain. Madrid signed two more attacking midfielders in James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos this summer, increasing competition for Di Maria to maintain his place in its starting lineup.