Philadelphia Union Say There's 'Not a Piece of Truth' in Mario Balotelli Rumours

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistNovember 30, 2018

Nice's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the French L1 football match between Nice and Lille at The 'Allianz Riviera' Stadium in Nice, south-eastern France on November 25, 2018. (Photo by VALERY HACHE / AFP)        (Photo credit should read VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Union sporting director Ernst Tanner has said there is "not a piece of truth" in rumours linking the Major League Soccer club with a move to sign Nice and Italy striker Mario Balotelli

Former Manchester City frontman Balotelli has been rumoured to be in discussions with the club, but Tanner recently told Jonathan Tannenwald of the Philadelphia Inquirer there have been no such talks.

Tanner, who is on a scouting trip in Europe, dismissed the speculation and said: "There is not a piece of truth in that story. I don't know why this is coming up. I never was in touch with him."

Balotelli, 28, arrived at the Allianz Riviera on deadline day in August 2016 and enjoyed a prolific first two seasons, the likes of which he hasn't enjoyed for years.

But after scoring 45 times in his first 68 appearances for the club, the Italian has hit a stumbling block in 2018-19 and can't find the back of the net, per WhoScored.com:

WhoScored.com @WhoScored

Mario Balotelli: Is averaging more shots per game (3) than any other player of those yet to score a goal in Europe's top five leagues this season For more player stats -- https://t.co/nS8hane5vk https://t.co/t7EmetP7RB

Union would in all probability struggle to meet Balotelli's wage demands, as well as the fee it would likely take to sanction his move from his French employers, who are in the middle of their Ligue 1 campaign.

However, Nice could see this as an opportunity to cash in and potentially make profit from a temperamental player who was brought in as a free transfer.

Balotelli's rejuvenation since moving to France may lead one to believe the former Inter Milan bad boy has changed his ways altogether. 

However, Nice coach Patrick Vieira—who played alongside the forward at Inter and City—spoke to the media in October and hinted the opposite could be true: "Mario was already the man he is now when he was 16 years old. I think he'll be the same at 45."

Balotelli was linked with an exit over the summer, but journalist Andy Brassell nodded to Vieira's impact in preventing that:

Andy Brassell @andybrassell

Balotelli on why he stayed at Nice - Patrick Vieira responsible for “80%” of reversing his decision https://t.co/RxIRimAT8P

The Philadelphia Union made it to the knockout stages of this season's play-offs before losing to New York City FC, and Tanner's denial suggests Balotelli won't arrive to help their cause in 2019.