Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani has ruled out the sale of Mario Balotelli in a statement defending the Italian striker's performances at the World Cup.
Galliani released quotes dismissing Balotelli as a scapegoat for Italy's failure to exit a group that included England, Costa Rica and Uruguay. Interestingly, his assessment of Balotelli's future was tacked onto the end of his shielding comments, per Milan's official website:
It seems now that the major disappointment was Balotelli, I do not understand this and do not want to really discuss it because I did not understand why the whole squad was not discussed. Balotelli will remain at Milan.
Galliani highlights Balotelli was the only striker to score in Brazil, as Ciro Immobile and Antonio Cassano came up short in one of the weakest Azzurri major tournament squads seen across recent years.
He says, "There was a coach, the technical staff and 22 other players: we have to talk about the collective," arguing Balotelli's hounding for the nation's failure may be a little unfair—especially as his mature display against England captured its only three points of the tournament.
The Milan chief's defence is potentially bad news for Arsenal, who continue to be linked with the former Manchester City striker. That said, it may barely hinder Arsene Wenger's summer plans after he rejected news of a bid in an interview with beIN Sports, reported via Sky Sports:
"We cannot believe absolutely everything that is on the internet or in the papers," said Wenger. "Sometimes it is created by agents or by press who need news. But in this case, it's not true."
Speculation increased after Milan vice president Barbara Berlusconi indicated Balotelli isn't "irreplaceable," noted by Sky Sports. Upon signing Balotelli in 2013, Galliani indicated the move was "a dream come true" for the San Siro giants, but it appears that attitude isn't reflected by everyone at the club.
As ever with Balotelli, his love-in after a transfer appears to have disappeared. The player's agent, Mino Raiola, name-dropped the Gunners when discussing a potential transfer. Amy Lewis of Sky Sports has the quotes:
Arsenal is a fantastic club in London. Only 10 clubs in the world maximum could afford Mario - like all premium players and he is one of the greatest. I won't make any further comment until after the transfer window closes.
Balotelli's volatile nature increases the likelihood of him receiving criticism when he plays poorly. He showed a levelheaded display against England, but he appeared disinterested during the defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay.
He would represent a quality alternative to Olivier Giroud at Arsenal, whose effectiveness declined after Christmas during the 2013-14 season. With Galliani keen to keep Balotelli it's likely any transfer fee would need to be inflated, so Arsenal are best to search elsewhere if the 23-year-old was even considered by the English club.
With Galliani's comments adding to Wenger's word, it's arguably the right time for this transfer to be put to bed.
Arsenal's search for a new striker is destined to drag on. Wenger will be looking to secure value for money but ultimately someone who can push Giroud all the way for a place in the North London side's first team.