Balotelli edging closer to Milan move
Manchester City are locked in negotiations with Milan over the transfer of Mario Balotelli and are exploring the option of loaning the striker out until the summer ahead of a permanent move.
The champions want around €23 million for the 22-year-old while the Rossoneri value Balotelli closer to €20 million. The player is keen to return to his homeland and is willing to take what represents a small pay cut regarding the terms on offer, which are €5 million a year tax-free, plus a sizeable signing-on bonus.
It is understood that City do not expect any resolution before tonight’s game with Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road, but a deal could be done before Thursday’s transfer deadline.
Mino Raiola, Balotelli’s agent, is in Manchester to try and seal an agreement, having already failed earlier this month to persuade Ferran Soriano, City’s chief executive, to allow the striker to move on a temporary basis.
City are thought to favour a permanent transfer for Balotelli in the current window but a loan deal remains a possibility. Another potential stumbling block is Milan’s desire to pay any fee in six instalments. City, conscious of Uefa’s financial fair play regulations, may want a lump sum that can be reinvested swiftly. However there is hope at Milan that, given Balotelli’s chequered time at City plus the player’s desire to move, the deal can be closed before the window closes.
Adriano Galliani, Milan’s vice-president, has been in consultation with Raiola regarding the best way to proceed. Two years ago Raiola was pivotal in the deal that took Zlatan Ibrahimovic, another of his players, from Barcelona to Milan.
If Balotelli were to leave, City would have only three recognised strikers – Carlos Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Edin Dzeko. Whether the club would try to replace Balotelli before Thursday’s deadline is moot. It is thought, though, that City plan to play a 4-3-3 formation next season, a system that utilises only one centre forward, meaning that three strikers for one position would be enough.
Asked yesterday about Balotelli’s future, David Platt, City’s assistant manager, chose his words carefully. “I haven’t heard anything,” he said. “I saw that speculation yesterday. It’s a shame Robbie’s [Roberto Mancini] not here. He might know more than me but he is still a Manchester City player. I don’t think anything is going to happen.”
He also claimed that Balotelli is in contention for this evening’s clash following illness. “Mario was back on the training pitch yesterday [Sunday],” Platt said. “He was in the squad for the weekend [at Stoke City], it was only a 24-hour virus he had so he’ll be up for selection.”
David Moyes is poised to make his first signing of the January transfer window after Everton agreed an €10 million fee with FC Twente for their powerful central midfielder Leroy Fer.
The 23-year-old, who has made two senior appearances for Holland, is due to undergo a medical and finalise personal terms on Merseyside ahead of Everton’s Premier League game against West Bromwich Albion tomorrow.
He has been offered a four-and-a-half-year contract with the Goodison Park club and has confirmed he wishes to join Everton’s attempt to qualify for Europe next season.
Tension at Arsenal
The underlying tensions within Arsenal’s ownership structure have resurfaced after the major shareholder, Alisher Usmanov, claimed the board’s lack of spending and inability to hang on to the club’s best players have effectively rendered them a feeder team for their rivals.
Usmanov, who owns just under 30 per cent of Arsenal, has regularly expressed his frustrations at the running of the club by the majority shareholder, Stan Kroenke, and offered his latest outburst in an interview with L’Equipe.
Arsenal have not claimed a trophy since the FA Cup in 2005 and have lost Robin van Persie, Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy to the two Manchester clubs – as well as Cesc Fabregas and Alex Song to Barcelona – in recent years.
“The greatest achievement of Arsene Wenger is to have created two teams: the one that now plays for our rivals and the one that is trying to be among the best in the Premier League,” Usmanov said.
“For me, he’s one of the best coaches in the world, but it’s not easy for him. I think he deserves that players are brought in at Arsenal when they’re needed. The best players, and not being satisfied with selling our best players to our rivals.”
Tottenham have confirmed Schalke midfielder Lewis Holtby will move to White Hart Lane immediately.