Mario Balotelli could make a sensational return to English football this summer, with Arsenal reportedly keen on making the AC Milan man their centre-forward for next season.
Arsene Wenger is in desperate need of another striker to provide competition for Olivier Giroud and, according to John Cross in The Mirror, the Gunners have been placed on red alert with the Rossoneri set to cash in on the former Manchester City man.
The link with Balotelli comes after Wenger promised the Arsenal fans an exciting summer in the transfer market, per Sami Mokbel of the Mail Online:
It’s very important that we are good now in the next two months until the end of August, that we can give to the team some more quality and go into next season with the belief we got from [the FA Cup] win.
Should the fans expect a big summer? Yes, they should expect that.
What I can promise is that we work very hard in a market that is very, very congested with many people who have a lot of money. But we have a big advantage, players want to join us and if we find the right quality I’m sure we can strengthen the team.
Balotelli is certainly a player that belongs in that exciting bracket. He is pure box office both on and off the pitch, and a precocious talent that could potentially add plenty to this Arsenal team.
However, Kevin Palmer of the Sunday World doesn't think Balotelli is a player who fits the Wenger blueprint:
John Cross reporting in the Mirror that Arsenal are in for Balotelli. Hardly seems like a Wenger kind of player to me, but who knows #AFC— Kevin Palmer (@kpsundayworld) June 1, 2014
During his time at Manchester City, the 23-year-old made the headlines for a host of peculiar antics off the pitch, but underpinning all of that—and something that was often overlooked—was a player that was extremely talented, but in desperate need of some direction.
His manager during his time at Manchester City was Roberto Mancini, and the relationship between the two oscillated from fantastic to fractious on a seemingly week-by-week basis. Subsequently, Balotelli was shipped out to Milan, although according to Cross’ piece, the current Premier League champions did include a buy-back clause.
Here's what Balotelli has been up to since he moved to the San Siro:
But with the Italian giants apparently looking to sell and with City having no intention of activating the aforementioned stipulation, the Emirates is beginning to look like a genuine possibility for the Italy international.
Whilst he has admittedly matured during his time at Milan, Balotelli remains a raw and occasionally erratic talent. But he has all the attributes to succeed in England, and in Wenger, he’d have a considerably more assured mentor than the volatile foil Mancini provided.
The Arsenal boss committed his future to the club recently after signing a new three-year deal, per BBC Sport. In his 18-year tenure in North London, a plethora of different personalities have come through the doors at Highbury and then the Emirates. But none have been quite as complicated as Balotelli.
Would Balotelli be a good fit at Arsenal?
For the player, securing some stability in his career is vital; if he does leave Milan this summer, he'll have been at four major clubs in his career and he's only 23 years old. Since he left Inter Milan, he's yet to work in a stable infrastructure that can allow him to develop and subsequently flourish as a genuine world-class talent. Wenger and Arsenal could definitely provide him with that.
If the Arsenal boss can smooth down the rough edges in Balotelli's game, channel his focus on the pitch and get him playing well on a consistent basis, Arsenal would have some player on their hands. But for all the challenges Wenger has tackled and, in the main, overcome in his time in England, getting the best out of Balotelli would perhaps be his most difficult to date.