The president of French outfit Nice has said striker Mario Balotelli has "expressed his wish to stay" at the club after he appeared to be heading toward the exit earlier in the summer transfer window.
Balotelli had been linked with a move to Ligue 1 rivals Marseille, but Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere told RMC Sport (h/t Football Italia) showdown talks produced an amicable solution:
"After last night's meeting, we gave each other 24 hours to reach a decision. In the end, Mario Balotelli expressed his wish to stay at Nice.
"The situation is very simple. We had a player who was approached. There were some very big offers coming from China, but the player turned them down.
"He was upset we were not playing in the Champions League this season and was approached by Marseille. They worked hard on him, but in the end, he decided to stay and we are very happy with that."
According to Rivere, Balotelli could have been purchased for between €4 million (£3.6 million) and €5 million (£4.5 million), and Marseille could have had him for the lower amount had they paid a straight cash deal.
WhoScored.com helped illustrate how it would have been a sore blow for Nice to lose one of their primary goal sources in recent years so late in the summer transfer window:
Ligue 1's window doesn't shut until August 31, but new manager Patrick Vieira would likely have to move into the transfer market to help find cover for the Italian should he leave this summer.
Nice confirmed that's no longer on the cards, however:
The former Arsenal, Manchester City, Juventus and Cannes midfielder told Canal+ (h/t AS) earlier this summer that it was unlikely Balotelli would be staying at the Allianz Riviera beyond this summer.
He said: "The player wants to leave, so it’s unlikely he’ll remain here. We want players whose desire it is to go forward with the club. It’s a very complicated and difficult situation, so the club will try to do whatever is possible to help him leave."
Rivere also helped explain his absence at the start of pre-season was due to Marseille's slow negotiations for a deal, adding: "I can justify Balotelli not attending pre-season training because, in his mind, he was leaving."
A summer move for Balotelli, 28, could have worked out well for all parties, though sportswriter Mohammed Ali said an exit next summer is still likely:
Mohammed Ali @mohammedali_93
No-one's a winner here. - OM without a striker - Nice lumbered with an expensive salary (approx 10% of their total yearly budget with no European football) + will v. likely go free next year - Balotelli outside the big clubs, missing out on a higher-profile move 🤷♂️ https://t.co/rjQynS69GE
Nevertheless, Nice appear content to persevere with an experienced forward who scored a very respectable 26 goals in all competitions last season, 18 of which were in Ligue 1.
According to Football Italia, Serie A outfits Napoli, AS Roma and Lazio were also among those interested in his services, though he's now set to continue a prolific run through France's top flight.