AC Milan's Silvio Berlusconi claims Mario Balotelli's failures at the 2014 World Cup cost him £28 million in transfer fees, and Arsenal would be wise not to fall into the trap the politician is trying to set.
Per Goal's Harry Sherlock, Berlusconi told Gazzetta Dello Sport he had a deal in place to sell the controversial Italian forward, only for the club to back out when Super Mario failed to deliver for the Squadra Azzurri:
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 to a top English club for €35 million, now the deal has stalled.
The striker was linked with a transfer move to Arsenal, but per Sky Sports Football, Arsene Wenger made it clear his Gunners had no interest in moving for the player:
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
Berlusconi isn't just sharing a funny anecdote with Italy's leading sports paper here—this is a ploy. The former Italian prime minister is telling any team that might still be interested the player is theirs for the taking, and the reported figure of £28 million will drop.
Gianlucadimarzio.com's David Amoyal knows Balotelli's future in Milan is still uncertain, with several people inside the club no longer willing to put up with his antics. Judging by his statements, Berlusconi is apparently one of them.
Balotelli’s future at Milan is uncertain. Nobody knows where he’ll play next. There are some who want him, those willing to give up on him at least based on what they say. These words carry more weight when they come from the club’s president, Silvio Berlusconi, then it means Milan is truly in a heated phase. It’s pretty clear they no longer considers him untouchable, which is pretty obvious to many, especially to clubs abroad where he still has a market.
Much will depend on the relationship between Balotelli and new manager Pippo Inzaghi, who doesn't need any distractions as he starts the next chapter of his career, coaching the Rossoneri.
BeIN Sports' Matteo Bonetti doesn't think Inzaghi wants Balotelli to be the main striker in his system:
I know what some of Inzaghi's generation of Italian football players think of Balotelli. My bet is he is sold this summer.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) June 5, 2014
Pippo Inzaghi will be adamant about having a classic No.9 leading the line (hence Mandzukic links, etc). That's not Balotelli.— Matteo Bonetti (@TheCalcioGuy) June 5, 2014
This is where things get interesting. Cashing in on the talented forward because he doesn't fit the new guy's system makes sense—selling him below market price following a subpar World Cup campaign does not.
Milan are rebuilding, and they are in no position to sell one of their most prized assets on the cheap. And yet, that's exactly what it looks like they're doing.
This should be a major red flag for any club interested in Balotelli's services. Coupled with his troubled history and his tendency to wear out his welcome at a new club before long, it should give Arsenal every reason not to push for a deal for the player, even at a reduced price.
Balotelli is clearly talented—there's no denying that. But casual fans seem to have a skewed idea of exactly how productive a striker Balotelli is.
Per WhoScored.com, Super Mario has never once scored more than 14 goals in a single league season, whether it's in Italy or England. His best season was his very first with Milan, scoring 12 in half a season, but that pace immediately cooled the following season, when he set his high mark of 14.
Both those seasons, Balotelli wasn't just Milan's main attacking option—he was effectively the team's focal point in attack. Every single cross went his direction, every single penalty or free kick came from his foot.
Stephan El Shaarawy's development came to a standstill following the arrival of Balotelli, as the youngster could no longer do what he does best—attack the goal and fashion chances out of nowhere. Milan was Balotelli's show now, and the results didn't do the team any good.
This is what Balotelli brings to the table. He'll score spectacular goals and play a fantastic game once every while, only to vanish for the next four or five matches. On the field, he simply doesn't live up to all the hype.
Let's not even get into the off-the-field stuff. Balotelli is a locker-room nightmare, and his talent simply doesn't outweigh all of the antics and shenanigans.
Arsenal could use a top-class striker to lead the team into 2014-15, but Balotelli simply can't be the answer. Berlusconi is trying to set a trap for all of the teams that might still be interested in his services, and if Wenger is smart, he won't fall for it.