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Sunday 4 December 2016

Liverpool eye Far East backing and consider China option for Mario Balotelli

Published 19/02/2016 | 22:36

The Far East could be a possible destination for Liverpool to offload Mario Balotelli
The Far East could be a possible destination for Liverpool to offload Mario Balotelli

Liverpool are looking to tap into the growing lucrative Far East market by trying to secure a multi-million pound sponsorship deal while also viewing China as an ideal place to offload flop Mario Balotelli.

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Press Association Sport understands chief commercial officer Billy Hogan has this week been in Asia pursuing potential opportunities which could stretch beyond naming rights for the newly-developed Main Stand at Anfield.

Talks have been held with three parties in the Far East not only about branding for the £100million project, which is due to be open for early next season, but also for a wider-ranging sponsorship deal.

The club would expect to bring in between £7million to £9million per season with a 10-year naming rights package but there remains scope for further expansion.

Indonesian airline Garuda pays £5.5million per year to have its name on Liverpool's training kit but its current deal expires at the end of this campaign.

China is also an "interesting" market in terms of longer-term investment in the club, with enquiries having been made by outside parties about buying a minority stake from Fenway Sports Group.

Liverpool's American owners have no intention of selling up but would be willing to bring on board investors who could offer expertise they value, particularly in terms of giving them a significant foothold in Asia and more pertinently China, where a pre-season tour could be considered at some stage.

The rush of high-profile transfers to the cash-rich Chinese Super League - Liverpool's primary January target Alex Teixeira moved there after Jiangsu Suning clinched an eye-watering £38million transfer - has also raised the prospect of Liverpool cashing in on Balotelli.

Currently on loan at AC Milan, the Italy international - a £16million signing in the summer of 2014 who managed just four goals in 28 matches for Liverpool - is understood to have no future at Anfield and the main issue is now finding someone willing to take on him and his substantial wages.

Having seen the likes of Teixeira, Paris St Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi, Atletico Madrid's Jackson Martinez and Chelsea's Ramires all complete big-money moves to China in recent weeks it is an avenue which the club could look to explore.

There have been regular talks with Balotelli's representative, Mino Raiola, and the club are reasonably confident a solution to ending the 25-year-old's spell at Liverpool will be found in the summer.

Press Association

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