Rumors of a Mario Balotelli move from Manchester City to AC Milan are nothing new. The Italian bad boy has been linked to the Rossoneri since he was a teenage sensation at the other San Siro club, Inter Milan.
With City manager Roberto Mancini relying on other attacking options at the Etihad, it looks like Balotelli is available for the right price, and Milan could very well be the suitor that wants him enough to go into their very small bank account and find the finances to bring him in.
The talk out of Milan has been mixed signals. Sometimes, the club's president, Silvio Berlusconi, will trash Balotelli and his character, but then he will apologize and leave the idea open (via ESPN).
AC Milan can claim all they want that Balotelli is not a target, and maybe that is true. But the dynamic tandem of Galliani and Berlusconi have developed a reputation for misleading everyone from journalists, to opponents, to fans about their transfer plans.
There is no reason to believe that Mario Balotelli is not an AC Milan target. No one will truly know until the transfer deadline passes without any action by Milan.
However, the fact that Milan are leaving the idea open could mean that they want people to think they are moving for Balotelli while actually going after another player.
Here is some evidence to prove that the chatter surrounding Balotelli is a smoke screen.
Both Berlusconi and Galliani have claimed that it would take the sale of two strikers to prompt the club to move for a replacement, as they are of the belief that Milan have a surplus of strikers at the moment.
They claim that AC Milan have five strikers (via ESPN), but when you look at the list, that notion can be countered.
Here are the five presumed strikers they speak of:
Stephan El Shaarawy
Are all five of these players actually strikers though? And if they are, are they reliable strikers?
Niang plays best as a striker, however manager Massimiliano Allegri has deployed him as a wide player, where he has been less than impressive. The young Frenchman is going to be a great player, but he needs to get experience up top, not out wide, but at the same time he's also not ready to be the main attacking option.
Pazzini is, of course, a striker, but he has been far from consistent this season. He found the net twice against Bologna on Sunday, but overall this campaign he has been difficult to rely on for goals. Also, given Milan's desire to go young, the 29-year-old may not be in the plans for long.
Robinho can play as either a striker or center forward, but how often have we watched the homesick Brazilian blast the ball over the bar from within 12 yards? How many sitters have we watched him miss? He has had a rough time in the past season-and-a-half, and Milan or Santos should have been willing to give in to the other's demands to make a transfer work.
El Shaarawy, as is clearly obvious now, is incredible as a left winger and should remain there rather than as a striker. He has not been explosive since the Christmas break, but once he returns to form, he will be hard for any defense to contain.
I do not see Bojan as a striker. I find he is better as a center forward or on the right wing. Having him up top as a target man is not ideal.
So, do Milan truly have five strikers? I think they have three, one of whom wants to leave.
Balotelli provides a young option up top that can be explosive as the target man, and he also brings Serie A experience. Milan are looking to revamp their squad with young stars at all positions, and that means they have to at least be having internal discussions about Balotelli.
Milan have been bipolar as ever in their transfer discussions with the press.
The club have neither confirmed nor assertively denied any interest in Mario Balotelli, and even if they did, who's to say that they are telling the truth?
Galliani is a cunning man.
He is not the kind of man that you should want to play poker with because he plays his cards so close to the chest and throws you in so many directions with his deception that you would never win.
Until the Jan. 31 deadline comes and goes without a sound, I refuse to take anything Galliani says to heart. If you take his words as gospel, you will be disappointed.
AC Milan have a knack for being linked to one player, then going for another at the last minute.
Some folks have said that Balotelli would move to Milan in the winter, others in the summer, but what if they are actually using the Balotelli link to make people think he is their No. 1 option?
That would be one of the less surprising moves by Milan in the Galliani era of transfer moves. The club could really benefit from a young forward, and a club that has always enjoyed its Brazilian youngsters would not mind, say, Leandro Damiao.
The club were mentioned in rumors about the Olympian over the summer, but nothing serious was ever reported. Of course, Milan fell out of all links when they used up their final non-European Union transfer slot.
Milan cannot actually move for Damiao until the summer as a result of the non-European Union transfer rules in Italy, which allow a team only two incoming transfers of players without EU passports per season, not mercato.
That said, it is not out of the realm of possibility for Milan to intentionally be throwing people off by making everyone think they are going for Balotelli while actually clearing the way for a move for Damiao or another striker.
Does this serve any real purpose? That is up for debate, but it is something Milan would do.
In early August 2010, Galliani declared Milan's transfer market closed.
At that point, Milan had done very little. They had added Mario Yepes, Sokratis Papastathopoulos and Marco Amelia.
A few days later, Kevin-Prince Boateng was signed in a strange loan deal that no one understood at the time. After Boateng's arrival, Galliani once again said that Milan's mercato was closed.
Two weeks later, Milan introduced Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho.
Last summer, Galliani promised to keep Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, before revealing that they had been sold to Paris Saint-Germain to balance the books and prepare for a youth revolution.
Later in the summer, Galliani said he was meeting with Florentino Perez in New York City to discuss the potential addition of players such as Kaka, Nuri Sahin, Ricardo Carvalho and Sami Khedira.
Milan like to throw people off the scent.