Monday, December 22, 2014

Liverpool in talks to sign Mario Balotelli from AC Milan

Mario Balotelli. (Don Wright/USA Today Sports)
Mario Balotelli. (Don Wright/USA Today Sports)

It looks like Liverpool is replacing one controversial goal-scorer with another. 

AC Milan and Italian national team striker Mario Balotelli has been lined up by the Premier League powerhouse as a potential replacement for Luis Suarez. The Uruguayan left Anfield after the World Cup to join Barcelona for $130 million. 

ESPN and the BBC reported that Liverpool and Milan agreed on a $26.5 million transfer fee, and that Balotelli's agent Mino Raiola is in England to seal the deal.

As Balotelli departed Milan's training ground Thursday, he told Sky Italia TV: "Today is my last day in Milan and I am going to Liverpool."

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  • Milan issued an official release acknowledging the negotiations.

    "Mario Balotelli left Milanello's sporting center at 1330 (local time) after saying goodbye to his teammates," the statement said. "Before going through the gates, he said goodbye to members of Milan's press office."

    Balotelli scored 14 goals in 30 league appearances for Milan last season. He netted 12 times in 13 matches the previous campaign, helping the team to a third-place finish in Serie A.

    If the signing becomes official today, Balotelli could face one of his old clubs in his first game with Liverpool. The Reds visit Manchester City, where Balotelli played from 2010 through 2013, on Monday (3:00 p.m., NBCSN and mun2).

    Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has made no secret of wanting to add a striker to his squad before the summer transfer window shuts on Sept. 1.

    Suarez was sold to Barcelona after being handed a four-month worldwide ban for biting an opponent during the World Cup.

    Balotelli has his own history of controversial incidents, though not quite on the scale of Suarez. He was involved in a car crash just days after joining Manchester City, and in October of 2011, fireworks exploded at his house. He also has a long history of being racially abused by fans in Italy, due to his Ghanaian heritage - even when training with the Italian national team.

    Time and again, though, he has overcome those issues by scoring big goals, and by showing a keen sense of humor.

    Balotelli scored two big goals for Italy in their Euro 2012 semi-final win over Germany. At this year's World Cup, he headed in the winner against England in the group stage. 

    His most famous goal came for City. In the wake of the fireworks incident, he scored against arch-rival Manchester United and revealed a t-shirt under his jersey with the message "WHY ALWAYS ME?"

    At the end of that same season, City won its first English top-flight championship since 1968. Balotelli scored 13 times in the campaign, and assisted on the goal that clinched the title.

    Liverpool hasn't finished atop the table since 1990. They're by far the biggest club that has never done so in the Premier League era. If the deal goes through, the fans in Anfield's famous Kop End will dream of Balotelli working that same magic for them.

    This article contains information from the Associated Press and Reuters.

    Jonathan Tannenwald Philly.com
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