Balotelli poised to sign for Liverpool
Any player contract likely to include stringent behavioural clauses
Mario Balotelli. The player’s agent, Mino Raiola, travelled to Merseyside for further talks with Liverpool chief executive Ian Ayre yesterday after Milan accepted a €20 million bid for the 24-year-old. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Brendan Rodgers, who stated he had no interest in the problematic striker less than three weeks ago, performed the volte-face after concluding Milan’s €20 million asking price was too tempting to refuse.
The Italian club quoted an exorbitant loan fee when Liverpool made an approach on Wednesday and rejected a proposal that the temporary deal could be terminated should Balotelli step out of line.
A permanent deal was then proposed, with Milan desperate to sell the Italy international only 19 months after he joined his boyhood club and Liverpool running out of striking options to replace Luis Suarez before the September 1st transfer deadline.
Liverpool have the deal in place with Milan and are at an advanced stage in negotiations with Raiola but have to clarify several matters with Balotelli.
Errant behaviourPersonal terms are one issue, with the forward seeking €200,000-a-week but likely to be offered less by Liverpool. A more pressing concern for Rodgers is protecting the club against any errant behaviour on Balotelli’s part.
The controversial striker has had problems with most managers and clubs during his brief but eventful career, from Internazionale under Jose Mourinho – who once described Balotelli as unmanageable – to long-time confident Roberto Mancini at Manchester City. He fell out with former national team coach Cesare Prandelli at Euro 2012 and at this summer’s World Cup.
Balotelli was sent off four times during his two-and-a-half seasons at City and once threatened legal action after being fined two weeks’ wages for missing 11 games through suspension while at the Etihad Stadium.
Rodgers – who has placed great store in signing the right characters and players who will adhere to his elite performance standard – wants assurances from Balotelli about his commitment to training and off-the-field discipline.
To that end, Liverpool’s contract offer to Balotelli is expected to include clauses on conduct and behaviour that exceed standard practice.
Balotelli could make his debut for Liverpool at City in the Premier League on Monday but would have to be registered by noo, which seems unlikely.
The striker is scheduled to travel to Liverpool and to meet the Liverpool manager over the weekend. Liverpool view the signing as a calculated risk.
Milan had been seeking around €44 million for Balotelli earlier in the summer but have resigned themselves to making back the money they paid City in January 2013.
That has encouraged the rethink by Liverpool, but a lack of credible alternatives has also changed Rodgers’s stance.
Speaking less than three weeks ago on the club’s pre-season tour of the United States, the Liverpool manager said: “I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool.
‘Asked a question’“In my last press conference I was asked a question about Mario Balotelli and I talked about what a talent he was and what an excellent player he was. And the next day it was wrote as if we were signing him.”
Rodgers has seen a €10 million move for Loic Remy collapse on medical grounds while inquiries for Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani, among others, have not developed. Samuel Eto’o, a free agent since leaving Chelsea in the summer, remains one of the few alternatives available to Liverpool. – Guardian Service