LONDON: Will he stay or will he go? Mario Balotelli, whether playing or on the subs’ bench or left at home, continues to prove a dangerous distraction for Manchester City. He may return to Italy during the January transfer window after the patience of even manager Roberto Mancini has begun to expire.
Balotelli is one of a handful of Premier League ‘names’ who could figure in the new year shuffle. Newcastle striker Demba Ba is another along with Chelsea’s Daniel Sturridge and Blackpool’s England under-21 midfielder Thomas Ince.
The latest turbulent episode in Balotelli’s latest battle with everyone else in football has been resolved but it will not be the last and, if Milan should come in with their threatened loan offer, City will not be sorry to see the back of him.
The 22-year-old Italian missed 11 games in England and Europe last season because of suspensions and City punished him with a fine of two weeks’ wages, approximately £340,000. Balotelli’s initial appeal was rejected by an independent club tribunal so he took his case to a Premier League commission.
This had been due to sit today but was postponed after last-minute negotiations between the players’ union and the club.
As with Carlos Tevez last season, Balotelli’s lack of professionalism and maturity is a sideshow City do not need in the bid to retain their Premier League title and regain form after the embarrassing group exit from the Champions League.
City would like to prise Radamel Falcao away from Atletico de Madrid – as would Chelsea – but the prospect of accomplishing that in January appears slight, particularly since the Colombian’s value escalates by £5m with every further magnificent goal.
No-one else in the Premier League would want Balotelli, not even Liverpool who have made no secret of their intention to purchase one or two new forwards to ease the pressure on over-worked – but superb – Luis Suarez.
Britain’s Olympic striker Daniel Sturridge is on his way out of Chelsea and is thought to prefer Liverpool as a destination rather than rejoin his ex-Stamford Bridge boss Andre Villas-Boas at Tottenham.
Liverpool have been even more closely linked with Demba Ba who has scored 11 of Newcastle’s 19 league goals this term. Ba signed a new contract with Newcastle in 2011 which it includes a £7.5m escape clause.
However, Liverpool may face surprise late competition from Arsenal. Talks on recalling Thierry Henry for a second loan spell have stalled but the Gunners need new fire-power with Maraoune Chamakh set for a loan to West Ham.
Hammers need someone to fill the gap left by injury which could sideline Andy Carroll until March. Carroll, of course, is on a season-long loan to West Ham from . . . Liverpool.
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