Mancini poised to continue summer spree with £25m Balotelli capture
MANCHESTER CITY are confident of completing the £25m signing of controversial Italian striker Mario Balotelli from Inter Milan despite the 19 year-old's extravagant wage demands.
City and the player's agent, Mino Raiola, dismissed as premature reports in Italy yesterday that both a fee with Inter and personal terms with the player had been agreed. However, sources at Eastlands have confirmed that manager Roberto Mancini expects to be reunited with the striker soon.
First, though, City will have to come to an arrangement over the player's desired £3m-a-year wages over the course of a mooted five-year contract, which are proving a sticking point in negotiations.
Though finance for a club believed to be paying Yaya Toure -- the £30m capture from Barcelona -- a salary of about £205,000 a week, is not a problem, City are determined not to be held to ransom by a comparatively inexperienced teenager.
Balotelli, though, clearly expects to be a City player in the near future.
The Italy international, of Ghanaian stock, held a farewell party for friends in Milan over the weekend before joining his Inter team-mates on their pre-season tour of the United States. The two clubs are due to meet in Baltimore this weekend. Though Inter's manager Rafael Benitez would like to keep the player, Balotelli has intimated to the Inter hierarchy that he wishes to rejoin Mancini, with whom he enjoyed a good rapport during the manager's spell at San Siro.
Balotelli's time at Inter has been scarred by a litany of controversies, including several high-profile clashes with Benitez's predecessor, Jose Mourinho. But Mancini last week dismissed suggestions that signing Balotelli, who has suffered racist abuse from fans during his time in Serie A, was a risk, given his troubled past.
"We all make mistakes when we are young," he said. "I do not think he is a difficult player; I think he is a fantastic player. I was the first to believe in him and I'm convinced about what he can give.Mario has two qualities that suit us: his talent and his age, because I want people able to build a cycle at Manchester City. That said, we return to the problem of valuation that has to be just. I like the player and at certain conditions. That's all."
Balotelli's arrival would take Mancini's summer spending to £107m, following the signings of Aleksandar Kolarov, Toure, David Silva and Jerome Boateng. The Italian remains hopeful of completing a deal for Aston Villa midfielder James Milner, while he will also attempt to land another forward, with Fernando Torres and Edin Dzeko his preferred targets.
Should either of those players arrive, Emmanuel Adebayor's future at the club would appear to be cast into doubt, though the player insists he is happy to compete for his place.
The former Arsenal striker, a £25m signing just a year ago, struggled for form after a bright start to his City career, but is adamant that the club's fans can expect a lot more from him this season.
"It was difficult for lots of reasons," he said. "I had got banned, I got injured and there was the terrorist attack, so it was hard. I have never had a season like that before, where I missed so much football. But a striker has to have confidence in himself.
"If you are not at the top of your game, you will be sitting on the bench. That is normal at a good team."
The City futures of Stephen Ireland and Craig Bellamy seem ever more bleak. Though Mancini insists he has not decided on whether to exclude either from his list of 25 players for the first half of the Premier League campaign, it is telling that he cannot confirm their inclusion.
The Italian, though, is at pains to point out that reports of a bust-up with either are inaccurate.
"I have to cut my squad down to 25 but I do not know who it will be," he said. "I have not decided anything about Stephen. There has been no problem with him on the tour." (© Daily Telegraph, London)