The rotten apple might be heading back to Milan after all. If that happens, the move might bring a welcome change for all involved.
Mario Balotelli, a 22-year-old Italian international striker with a rap-sheet as impressive as his talent, is being linked with a move from Manchester City to Italian giants AC Milan. After sitting through City's 2-0 Premier League victory over Fulham on Saturday as an unused substitute, Balotelli could reportedly leave the Etihad Stadium this week.
If he does leave, it would end a turbulent career at City and return Balotelli to his homeland. He left Inter Milan for City in 2010 for a reported £22 million.
But before anything happens, Manchester City and AC Milan must agree on a fee. AC Milan could need to move another under-performing attacker first, though, and Balotelli might have to come to grips with being called a "rotten apple" by AC Milan's most important man.
The Daily Telegraph reports on the potential deal:
Although the public stance of manager Roberto Mancini is that Balotelli is not for sale and that he will be given the chance to redeem himself at the club, the reality is that City are prepared to sell the troublesome striker this month, but only if they receive an offer which at least covers their own outlay on the player.
Senior figures at Milan are due to discuss their next move on Balotelli on Monday, with the San Siro future of Robinho, who is wanted by Brazilian sides Santos and Flamengo, key to their strategy on Balotelli ahead of the Jan 31 transfer deadline.
If you missed it, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi recently called Balotelli a "rotten apple" but later apologized (via ESPN FC). Of more importance, however, could be the two clubs' negotiations over a potential transfer price.
According to multiple published reports, City and Milan remain far apart on their valuations of the player. City reportedly want about £30 million for Balotelli, and Milan are unwilling to match it.
"At the end of Friday, Manchester City still said €37m," Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani told La Gazzetta dello Sport (via The Guardian). "We will see on Monday. Under these conditions, he will remain at Manchester City."
Though he has tested the patience of Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini on multiple occasions, Balotelli showed off his enormous skills for Italy at Euro 2012. In his most memorable performance, he scored twice in the first half as Italy upset Germany in the semifinals.
But that couldn't overshadow Balotelli's on-field and off-field problems at City.
This season he has started just seven times in the Premier League, scoring once. He was also photographed struggling with Mancini in a physical confrontation on City's training ground (via BBC Sport), and threatened to take City to a tribunal over £340,000 in fines levied for missing games through suspension last season (via Daily Mail).
With those incidents in mind, it makes sense that Balotelli might prosper in a new environment. If the move happens, though, Berlusconi's comments about rotten apples might give Balotelli an unwanted distraction right away.
So what do you think, readers? Would Balotelli and AC Milan make a good match? Let us know in the comments.