x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Possible English return mooted by Balotelli’s agent

Chelsea would be among Italian's most fervent suitors should he become available

Mario Balotelli’s agent says the Italian international wants to leave AC Milan.

Milan are into the last 16 of this season’s Uefa Champions League, where they will face Atletico Madrid, but they went into the winter break 13th in Serie A, 25 points off leaders However, The National has learned that Balotelli has grown disillusioned with the club’s ambition and chances of qualifying for the Champions League next season

“Mario wishes to leave Milan in January. We don’t know where he will go at the moment, we are looking at the different possibilities,” Balotelli’s agent, Mino Raiola, told a source familiar with Balotelli’s situation. “Chelsea is one of the options, but there has been no offers and I cannot comment [on whether] we have been contacted.”

Balotelli is on holiday in Dubai, with Milan’s next league game not until January 6.

Conveniently, officials from Chelsea are in Dubai to attend the Globe Soccer Conference. The English Premier League side would be among the favourites to sign Balotelli, if he became available, given their struggles at striker and manager Jose Mourinho’s relationship with Balotelli.

Chelsea’s three leading strikers – Fernando Torres, Demba Ba and Samuel Eto’o – have just five league goals between them this season. No forward scored away from home for Chelsea in the Premier League in 2013.

In October, Raiola, who is also Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s agent, told Italian television that a move to Chelsea was a possibility. Mourinho was Balotelli’s manager at Inter Milan from 2008 to 2010.

“Balotelli and Jose Mourinho could be reunited because they know each other and they didn’t leave each other with hate,” Raiola told Italia 1.

“There was a not very nice incident between them, but they parted company on good terms. They have remained in contact and there is mutual respect.

“Balotelli to Chelsea could happen because Balotelli is a great striker, but [Milan’s vice president Adriano] Galliani doesn’t want it.”

Milan released a statement on Saturday in response to a story published in the Genoa-based Il Secolo XIX that claimed club president Silvio Berlusconi had told close friends that Balotelli was for sale.

“AC Milan deny absolutely and with strength the declarations that would have been referred to the Milan president about an unthinkable collocation of Mario Balotelli on the market,” the statement read.

“Mario Balotelli is and remains a Milan player.”