Friday 24 October 2014

Balotelli talks progressing well

Published 22/08/2014 | 06:51

Mario Balotelli is close to sealing a return to England

Talks between Mario Balotelli's representative and Liverpool are understood to be progressing well as the club seek assurances about the player's behaviour - although any deal will not be completed in time for him to feature against Manchester City.

Reports suggest the Reds have agreed a £16million fee with AC Milan for striker Balotelli's proposed move to Anfield.

And while Liverpool have not commented, Press Association Sport understands productive discussions involving Balotelli's agent and the club took place in England on Thursday and are continuing on Friday.

A key aspect of those discussions is believed to be the Merseyside outfit's desire to obtain some kind of guarantee about the discipline of the mercurial 24-year-old Italy international.

Balotelli himself remains in his homeland for now and will not be able to take part in Liverpool's Barclays Premier League clash with his former side City at the Etihad Stadium on Monday as the transfer would need to be completed by midday on Friday for him to be eligible.

Balotelli on Thursday added credence to the reports that he is set to return to English football by saying it would be his last day at Milan's training ground.

The Serie A side followed that later with a statement on their website revealing he had said his farewells to his team-mates.

Liverpool have been looking for a marquee striker to replace the departed Luis Suarez this summer but their interest in Balotelli represents a remarkable about-turn from around three weeks ago.

When the Reds played Milan in a friendly in the United States, manager Brendan Rodgers expressed admiration for Balotelli but subsequently ''categorically'' said he was not a target.

Recently, however, a move for QPR's Loic Remy has collapsed while interest in former Chelsea striker Samuel Eto'o has cooled and attempts to sign Radamel Falcao from Monaco seem unrealistic.

With new signing Rickie Lambert the only frontline support for Daniel Sturridge and the transfer deadline nearing, a move for Balotelli has become more attractive.

Balotelli is a proven performer and scored Italy's winner in the World Cup opener against England in Manaus.

But the baggage that comes with him is considerable. His spell at City from summer 2010 to January 2013 was a whirlwind one, with occasional sparkling performances interspersed with volatility on the field and erratic behaviour off it.

His numerous misdemeanours famously included fireworks being set off in his bathroom, throwing a dart at a youth-team player and training-ground bust-ups with team-mates and manager Roberto Mancini.

On the positive side he played a key role in the 2011 FA Cup win and contributed to the following year's Premier League success, but he also hindered progress by accruing four red cards.

City - for whom he scored a total of 30 goals in 80 appearances in all competitions - eventually tired of the circus surrounding him and offloaded the former Inter Milan player to his boyhood club AC Milan.

Press Association

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