AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has reportedly claimed Mario Balotelli's poor performances for Italy at the World Cup have scuppered his plans to sell the 23-year-old striker to an unnamed Premier League club.
The reports in La Gazzetta have sparked rumours concerning whether Liverpool or Arsenal have pulled out of a deal for Balotelli after reports of Berlusconi complaining of the missed opportunity (via David Kent in the Daily Mail):
Other than Italy, I’m the one who lost at the World Cup. I was selling Balotelli to an English team for several millions, but, after this World Cup, who will buy him now? I was going to sell it (sic) to a top English club for 35million [euros], then the deal has stalled.
The €35 million (£28 million) quoted is roughly the amount that Arsenal were strongly rumoured to be offering Milan in an attempt to bring the former Manchester City man to the Emirates to bolster their attacking unit, per Alex Richards in the Mirror.
However, Arsene Wenger went on to deny that Arsenal were interested in the controversial star, per Sky Sports:
Arsene Wenger has distanced Arsenal from reports suggesting a move for AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli is close. http://t.co/c1C7OC7ebR— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) June 25, 2014
While Balotelli scored the winning goal in Italy's opening group game against England, he was very poor in defeat to Costa Rica and Uruguay as the Azzurri were dumped out if the World Cup in Brazil, per the Daily Mail's Ian Ladyman:
Balotelli taken off because he's been rubbish and was more likely to be sent off that do anything remotely productive.— Ian Ladyman (@Ian_Ladyman_DM) June 24, 2014
Despite this, he is still a proven quality striker and has an impressive record at Milan—where he moved from City in January 2013—having scored 34 goals in 50 matches, per the Guardian.
Milan vice-president—and Berlusconi's daughter—Barbara Berlusconi previously suggested that Balotelli was "replaceable," per John Cross in the Mirror.
It certainly seems as though Milan are eager to see the back of Balotelli, and Liverpool have also been linked with him as a replacement for the likely outgoing Luis Suarez, per Jamie Anderson in the Express:
The former Manchester City striker is being lined up as a replacement for the shamed Uruguay star Luis Suarez, who many anticipate will leave Anfield this summer.
Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport claims the 23-year-old striker has been placed on the transfer list by the Italian giants.
However, Berlusconi's latest comments suggest the interest in Balotelli, certainly from England, is not as eager as rumoured.
Should Liverpool pursue the signing of Balotelli to replace Suarez?
While he is a proven goalscorer, he has caused disruption at all of the clubs he has been at due to his temperamental mood and inconsistent form.
Certainly Liverpool would be ill-advised to replace one controversial figure—Suarez—with another, and Wenger seems to have ruled Arsenal out of the race already.
Whether Berlusconi has genuinely missed out on shipping out Balotelli is as yet unconfirmed, but it seems beyond doubt now that he is not wanted in Milan.