Flamengo president Rodolfo Landim has confirmed reports the Brazilian club is interested in free agent striker Mario Balotelli but played down the chances of the former Liverpool, Inter Milan and AC Milan forward crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
He told UOL (h/t Football Italia) there has been contact between the two parties, but a move isn't close: "He’s a great player and we’ve been in contact. He’s shown interest in playing for Flamengo, but nothing’s been decided yet. He’s a great player, but a lot of water still needs to run under that bridge."
The 28-year-old is currently a free agent after a short stint with Marseille. He has played in France since 2016, originally with Nice before joining Marseille in January.
He scored eight goals in 15 Ligue 1 appearances for Marseille and had a solid 2017-18 season for Nice as well, indicating he is still a productive forward:
But despite his solid numbers, he has yet to sign a contract with a new club this summer.
That likely has to do with Super Mario's history, which is filled with controversy at just about every stop in his career. His reputation got so bad at one point Milan inserted a behaviour clause based on the one used by the Italian air force, according to Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Guardian).
Here is a look at some of his craziest moments:
Things didn't improve in France, with his time at Nice coming to an end due to a falling out with manager Patrick Vieira, per Goal's Robin Bairner. The Italian was late and out of shape for pre-season last summer and quickly fell out of the team.
Balotelli remains a supremely talented forward capable of greatness when he's at his best, but off-field issues and poor spells seem virtually guaranteed at this stage of his career. Clubs will have to decide whether they can deal with that before handing the forward a contract.
He could become the second high-profile Italian player to move to South America this summer, following Daniele De Rossi's transfer to Boca Juniors.