Madcap Mario heading for Liverpool?
JUST when Brendan Rodgers thought he was rid of a problem, he appears to have landed another.
This, after media in England and Italy reported yesterday that Mario Balotelli is on the brink of a shock move to Liverpool - two weeks after the Reds boss ruled out a bid for the controversial striker.
According to sports channel Sky Italia, AC Milan have agreed to let the 24-year-old move to Anfield and a transfer worth 20 million euros (S$33 million) is being wrapped up.
A Milan spokesman said he could not confirm any talks.
The reported move is being seen as a sign of Liverpool's frustration at being unable to land a top quality replacement for Luis Suarez following the controversial Uruguayan's World Cup biting disgrace and subsequent departure for Barcelona.
During Liverpool's tour of the United States earlier this month, Rodgers had appeared to close the door on a move for Balotelli, saying: "I can categorically tell you that he will not be coming to Liverpool."
Rodgers' caution is understandable.
Balotelli was always a high-profile figure during his time in England, where he won both the Premier League and the FA Cup but he also become a fixture in the gossip pages of the national press.
The striker's three years (2010-13) with Manchester City were overshadowed by his off-pitch antics, which included car crashes, setting fireworks off in his bathroom and an incident in which he threw a dart at a youth-team player.
He was regularly at loggerheads with then City boss Roberto Mancini and clashed with some team-mates while producing only intermittent flashes of his undoubted star quality.
Liverpool have reportedly targeted Monaco's Radamel Falcao as their first-choice replacement for Suarez - himself no stranger to lurid headlines for racist remarks and another biting incident - but appear to have made little headway in their attempts to secure the Colombian, who missed the second half of last season and the World Cup with a serious knee injury.
A return to England and a fresh start could suit Balotelli. The striker has been subjected to criticism in his home country for a perceived poor attitude during Italy's World Cup campaign, which ended with the Azzurri flying home at the end of the group stage.
As the most prominent black player in Italy and the first to represent the country at a major tournament, Balotelli has also had to endure regular racist abuse of a kind which is now rare in English stadiums.
Balotelli scored 16 goals for Milan last season, as well as the winner in Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus.