And so, it looks like another chapter in the still brief but nevertheless eventful career of Mario Balotelli is to be written.
The Italian striker is rumoured to want to leave AC Milan, after his agent Mino Raiola, never shy about discussing his clients in public, said his time in Italy may well be up. Raiola was quoted by The National as saying:
“Mario wishes to leave Milan in January. We don’t know where he will go at the moment, we are looking at the different possibilities.”
However, Raiola denied saying anything of the sort a few days later, as ESPN reports:
"I have not spoken with anyone. They are liars - this is low-level journalism. I agree with what is reported on AC Milan's official website with regard to the fact Balotelli is not available for transfer in January."
What to believe? Whichever version of Balotelli's future is accurate, it will not stop the rumour mill, which churns and fires out speculation whether confirmed or not, and the product of such a mill this week is the consistent suggestion that Chelsea could be a potential destination for Balotelli.
At its most basic level, the rumour makes a certain amount of sense. Chelsea need a goalscorer, and Balotelli has 18 goals in 24 Serie A games since joining Milan last January. Milan aren't exactly flush at the moment, while Chelsea have enormous pots of cash they can dip into at will.
And this is a striker who, at 23, is still raw. He has an abundance of talent that has yet to be unlocked, and for the past four years of his career, he has worked for managers who, with the best will in the world, were perhaps not ideal to bring the best out of him. Roberto Mancini and Max Allegri have league titles, of course, but neither of them is Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho and Balotelli have worked before, at Inter, and their relationship was...well, "complicated," to say the least. Regard this story that Mourinho told CNN's Pedro Pinto about Balotelli:
The most telling thing about that story is that Mourinho has a smile on his face the whole time. A tale of what should have been an irresponsible and unprofessional act, and Mourinho laughs about it, suggesting that, at the very least, he has a lasting affection for his former charge.
It also suggests that Mourinho recognises Balotelli's talent and is prepared to indulge him, to an extent. And Balotelli has undoubtedly matured since those early days at Inter, so incidents like that are unlikely to be repeated.
Mourinho would provide an atmosphere within which Balotelli could thrive, and he would certainly appear to be a good fit for the Chelsea team, too. Mourinho likes powerful, quick strikers who link play, who can set up teammates as well as score goals themselves. The likes of Oscar, Eden Hazard and Juan Mata (assuming he sticks around at Chelsea) playing behind the striker would thrive on the sort of neat and clever passes that Balotelli provides, and vice versa.
“Me, with Mourinho? He's a great manager but he didn't understand me so he said that nobody can understand me. But I think the only one that cannot understand me is him, so it's his problem."
Still, as stated before, Balotelli has matured since those early days. If that problem could be worked out, then as crazy as it might seem, Balotelli and Chelsea might be a very good fit indeed.
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