Plenty of transfer talk comes and goes over the course of a summer. One interesting link that's become more prominent in recent days features AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli and a potential move to Emirates Stadium to join Arsenal.
On the surface, the idea makes sense. The Gunners don't have an established target forward in the squad, and the polarizing Italian international has never seemed truly settled at San Siro despite solid production over the past season-and-a-half.
Just because the pieces fit together doesn't always mean a deal is going to happen, though. In this case, it sounds like the rumors and speculation may just be logical connections being made as opposed to an actual transfer on the horizon.
Chris Davie of Goal.com reported earlier in the week that Arsenal haven't made any concrete offers for Balotelli despite boss Arsene Wenger meeting with the player's agent last month.
Milan CEO Adriano Galliani confirmed there was nothing currently on the table, saying via Davie, "We have not received any offer [for Balotelli] and at this time, there is nothing from Arsenal."
Yes, there's still more than a month left in the summer window, which closes on 31 August. That said, the difficulty of finishing a high-profile transfer means the sides would likely need to at least start negotiations soon if they want to get something done.
It doesn't sound like Wenger is urgently looking at getting a deal done, however—at least not in that area. Marc Williams of The Independent passed along comments from the longtime Gunners boss about what he's still hoping to accomplish during the movement period.
"Up front we don't need any more, maybe I will still bring in one centre-back," Wenger said. "I will bring in a goalkeeper for sure and we are still out there to strengthen our squad."
Wenger could always be playing coy, but he certainly doesn't sound like a manager prepared to make another major splash to bring in a striker. He went on to mention midfield as another potential area where an upgrade could arrive, depending on the preseason.
Some may debate the boss' assertion that further improvement isn't needed up front. A lot depends on the view of Alexis Sanchez, who played a complementary role at Barcelona and will now be asked to take on a more featured role for Arsenal.
If he displays the form he did during the World Cup with Chile on a regular basis following the move, the attack should be in great shape. He figures to work well with Theo Walcott, Mesut Ozil, Aaron Ramsey and Olivier Giroud.
Would the group be more potent if they inserted Balotelli for Giroud atop the formation? Probably, but it comes down to determining how much of an upgrade it would be and weighing that against the massive investment likely necessary to land the polarizing striker.
Arsenal Stuff provided a Sky Sports breakdown of the two options:
Balotelli vs Giroud Statistics. [sky sports] pic.twitter.com/5JKMyuMp5a— Arsenal Stuff (@ArsenaIStuff) June 26, 2014
At 23, Balotelli certainly possesses more untapped potential but is also the more volatile option. There are some matches when he looks absolutely unstoppable, and others where it's easy to forget he's even playing in the match.
That's part of the frustration associated with him over the years. His talent level is off the charts, but he doesn't always play up to it.
New Milan manager Pippo Inzaghi is ready to give him a chance to shake any of those previous labels. Hamish Mackay of the Daily Mail provided remarks from the former Milan and Italy striker about a player currently filling both of those roles:
Balotelli is a very important player and belongs to Milan. I'll interact with him in the way I do with other players, ... I'll forget everything I've heard about him either in a good or a bad way because I want to get to know people to get the best out of them.
Once again, those don't sound like comments about a player facing an imminent exit. It appears the Rossoneri are prepared to give him another chance to live up to that sky-high potential.
Where will Balotelli be when the window closes?
Balotelli is a unique talent who would certainly bring a distinct flair to Arsenal. Alas, between the needs in other areas, the lack of talks with the new campaign right around the corner, and the comments made by Wenger as well as Milan's CEO and manager, a transfer seems like a long shot.
That doesn't mean the Gunners attack will struggle. The trio of Ozil, Walcott and Sanchez is particularly intriguing if all three can stay healthy. It's a group that possesses plenty of playmaking ability, which should make Giroud's job easier up front.
The Balotelli buzz may persist for a while longer. Unless legitimate signs begin to emerge with progress toward an actual deal, however, it will likely pass having been just more summer gossip.