AC Milan are ready to offer Mario Balotelli a return to Italy in January after being made aware of Manchester City's willingness to sell the controversial 22-year-old.
Since rejecting a £40m bid from Paris Saint-Germain for the player during the summer, City manager Roberto Mancini has become increasingly exasperated by Balotelli's performances and work ethic and has now accepted there is little value in persevering with the forward.
With Mancini determined to make a renewed attempt to sign Roma captain Daniele de Rossi in January, any funds raised by the sale of Balotelli could prove significant in his efforts to lure the midfielder to City.
Balotelli, left out of the squad for City's 2-1 victory against Tottenham on Sunday, is also a target for former club Inter Milan. However, Inter are unlikely to be able to fund a move for the player until the end of the season and AC Milan believe they can beat their city rivals to the striker by offloading Brazilian Alexandre Pato during the transfer window.
Despite raising a combined £51.4m following the sales of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to PSG during the summer, AC Milan would still need to generate funds to sign Balotelli.
Uncertainty surrounds the future of coach Massimiliano Allegri, who faces the sack because Milan are languishing in the bottom half of Serie A, just five points clear of the relegation zone, but chief executive Adriano Galliani is a long-term admirer of Balotelli and views him as the talismanic figure Milan require to fill the void left by Ibrahimovic's departure.
With Balotelli dropping to fourth-choice striker at the Etihad Stadium this season, City are unlikely to receive offers anywhere near PSG's summer bid, but his valuation remains close to the £22m the club paid to sign him from Inter in August 2010.
After the striker impressed for Italy during Euro 2012, Mancini insisted that Balotelli had to repeat those performances regularly to prove that he had overcome the inconsistency and immaturity that have tainted his two years in Manchester.
Balotelli has failed to meet the challenge set by Mancini, and the pair's relationship has soured, with the manager shoving the player in the tunnel after a 1-1 draw at home to Arsenal. Also, Balotelli reacted petulantly to being substituted during the recent 0-0 stalemate at West Ham.
Although selling Balotelli would leave City with just three recognised forwards, Mancini is prepared to hand Swedish youngster John Guidetti the chance to challenge for first-team selection following his recovery from a virus.
Meanwhile, City goalkeeper Joe Hart claims the players are proving their resilience after overturning a 1-0 deficit to beat Spurs.
"I think we've got that belief," Hart said. "With the quality and the spirit, we're not here for anything else other than to win. We don't turn up to tick boxes or make people happy, we turn up to win." (© Daily Telegraph, London)