Nice president: Call Balotelli and tell him we need a striker

A toothless performance from Les Aiglons at the weekend has their board apparently eager to sign the Italy international forward

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere wants Liverpool forward Mario Balotelli at the Ligue 1 club.

Balotelli, unwanted by Jurgen Klopp at Anfield, reportedly met with Rivere to discuss a potential move.

Nice have made an impressive start to their league campaign, collecting seven points from their opening three games.


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Speaking after their 1-1 draw at home to Lille on Saturday, Rivere said: “Do you have Balotelli’s number?

“Call him and tell him we need a striker in Nice.”

Balotelli, 26, spent last season on loan at AC Milan, but struggled with just three goals across 23 games in all competitions.

Palermo confident of Balotelli deal

The forward can recapture his world-class qualities if he returns to the city of his birth, according to Palermo’s president

Palermo have made an offer to sign Mario Balotelli from Liverpool and are confident of securing a deal before the end of the transfer window.

The Italy international has been forced to train away from the first team at Anfield after manager Jurgen Klopp made it clear that he was not in his plans.

Moves back to Serie A with Chievo, Sassuolo and Bologna have been suggested, while the president of Sion claimed they were interested in taking the 26-year-old to the Swiss Super League.

Palermo sporting director Guglielmo Micciche has now claimed that a bid has been submitted to Liverpool and he believes a return to the city of his birth could offer Balotelli the perfect chance to resurrect his career.

“It’s a very fascinating proposition,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “It’s a very difficult operation, but we’re trying. It would be a great coup for president Maurizio Zamparini, a gift for all of the fans.

“We’ve made an offer and now the ball is in Liverpool and the player’s court. He has a high salary and a lot of sponsors, so it’s not easy, but Palermo could be just the right place for him.


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“He was born in Palermo and we consider him a citizen of Palermo. This city would welcome him with open arms – he would be adored here. It would be a dream for Palermo to have a player like him and he could be the leader of this team.”

Zamparini said he has spoken directly with Balotelli and his agent, Mino Raiola, and claimed the former Manchester City striker is eager to make the move despite concerns over his high salary.

“I called Raiola and he passed the phone over to Balotelli,” Zamparini told Corriere dello Sport. “Mario confessed straight away that he’d be happy to come to Palermo.

“We did discuss the economic situation and I explained we could not afford wages above a certain level.

“This would be an opportunity for him, but he’d need to make a sacrifice to relaunch his career at this level.

“We are interested, so we need Raiola to understand that Balotelli must reboot. He needs a club like Palermo, which is of course where he was born, too – it would be a huge advantage in the long run.

“We are very happy to keep him for a year and get him back to being the world-class striker he once was.”

Sakho yet to commit to Stoke but loan from Liverpool is likely

The 26-year-old has the opportunity to sharpen up physically – and also professionally – should he accept a temporary switch to the Britannia Stadium ahead of deadline day

Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho has not yet made a decision on whether to accept Stoke’s offer of a season-long loan but Mark Hughes is optimistic of getting an answer in the affirmative before the transfer deadline.

The France international understands his best shot of securing minutes while he builds up his sharpness would be to exit Anfield temporarily.

And having already rejected interest from West Brom, who wanted to recruit him on a permanent basis, the 26-year-old is now likely to link up with former team-mates Joe Allen and Glen Johnson at the Britannia Stadium.

Sakho has not played for 128 days and is desperate for a run of games as soon as possible as he works his way back from tendinopathy of the Achilles.

That will prove hard at Liverpool with Joel Matip, Dejan Lovren and Ragnar Klavan all currently in better shape than him. Lucas, who filled in at centre-back last season, is also closing in on full fitness having played a half for the Under-23s against Arsenal on Friday night and Joe Gomez, too, is nearing a comeback from injury.

Sakho’s problems have been multiple since April, when UEFA revealed he failed a drugs test following the Europa League draw at Manchester United. He took a voluntary provisional ban as the matter was investigated, missing the final of the continental competition against Sevilla as well as the European Championship on home soil.

The case was dismissed by UEFA in July and the World Anti-Doping Agency this week revealed that they would not appeal that decision, leaving Sakho in the clear.

In between those two developments, though, the popular centre-back suffered the injury setback and was also sent back to Merseyside from Liverpool’s pre-season tour of the United States for infringing club rules on three occasions.

A move away will not only allow Sakho to improve his fitness while getting guaranteed game time but also give him the opportunity to recondition his professionalism.

Mario Balotelli, meanwhile, will have to convince Nice and other potential suitors that he is committed to rehabilitating his career.

Having travelled to the south-east coast of France on Thursday, the striker met with officials from the Ligue 1 club a day later, after the Europa League draw in Monaco, with his agent Mino Raiola.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere has given little away when it comes to a potential transfer, distancing himself from claims he had met with the Italian but admitting the door could be open for such a signing.

It is understood it is he, and not coach Lucien Favre, who is driving the deal, with the latter keen to impress that work ethic trumps the status of a player.


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FC Sion have also admitted an interest in recruiting Balotelli on loan and Palermo vice-president Guglielmo Micciche has revealed his club is also in the running.

“We made an offer, he’d be a leader here,” Micciche told Gazzamercato. “It’s a very difficult operation, but an intriguing one and we will try.

“It would be a great coup for the president Maurizio Zamparini and a gift for all the fans. We made an offer, now it’s up to Liverpool and the player to decide.

“He has high wages and a pool of sponsors, so it’s not an easy situation for us, but Palermo could be the right place for him. He was born in Palermo and we consider him a Sicilian.

“He would be welcomed here with open arms and adored by the fans. A player like him would be a dream for Palermo and he could be a leader here.”

Why Nice could be the perfect destination for wayward Balotelli

After overseeing the spectacular rehabilitation of Hatem Ben Arfa, the out-of-favour Italian striker would represent an equally big challenge for the Ligue 1 side


GOAL COMMENT


Sometimes it takes a step backwards to start moving forwards. Mario Balotelli may be about to discover that as he braces himself for a summer move away from Liverpool.

It is a measure of his potential that the Italian striker has never before played for a team that is not a modern day superpower, yet it is equally a measure of just how much he has lost his way that at 26 – when he should be coming into his prime – that he is set to drop a level.

A captivating figure due to his off-field antics in his younger days, he has lost the spark that saw him fire Italy so spectacularly into the Euro 2012 final and help Manchester City claim their first ever Premier League crown. His spell at Liverpool, who signed him for £16 million from AC Milan, has wrought a mere 28 appearances and a meagre four goals. 

As a result, Balotelli, who spent the first half of 2016 back at San Siro on loan, has been forced to suffer the ignominy of being touted to clubs far from Europe’s top table. Basel have admitted an interest in the Liverpool attacker, but it is Nice who are presently in discussions with arguably the most enigmatic footballer of the present day.

And it is on the Cote d’Azur that he might find his best hope of redemption. After all, little over 12 months ago Hatem Ben Arfa arrived at the Allianz Rivera having been washed back to France after a wretched spell with Newcastle, his career at the top level seeming over. Now, however, he finds himself in Paris Saint-Germain’s ranks after a blistering campaign.

Of course, coach Claude Puel has departed for Southampton since then, but the philosophy and grounding of the club remains very much the same.

Balotelli, whose contract with Liverpool expires next June, would find in Nice an attractive city in which to rehabilitate his ailing career. With a favourable Mediterranean climate, a laid-back atmosphere and a matter of minutes from the border with Italy, the situation seems perfect for a striker at his best when he feels loved.


GOAL READ MORE   | EXCLUSIVEBalotelli travels to Nice for talks


He would also be the undoubted star attraction of a team that finished fourth in Ligue 1 last season and won a spot in the Europa League as a result. Brazil international centre-back Dante might have been signed by Nice earlier this week, but it would be Balotelli who would capture the attention. 

Lucien Favre’s side have not signed any attacking players this summer, which has left a major void in their squad. Not only has the panache and flair of Ben Arfa been lost, so too has the subtle guile and clever movement of Valere Germain, another drifting player give a rebirth by Les Aiglons last term after arriving on loan from Monaco.

Alassane Plea, who is currently their No.9, is a player with promise, but he is not in the same league as a fit and motivated Balotelli.

And therein comes the problem. While Balotelli can be given the optimal conditions to allow him to thrive, whether he does so or not is ultimately dependent on his idiosyncratic attitude. If he has lost his desire to perform, it will not matter where he goes.

Perhaps this will be the move he needs; the deal that really shows him that the only way he can continue to play at an elite level is by acting like an elite figure.

Certainly, Nice head coach Favre has made no promises about a deal being brokered. Just as Rennes boss Christian Gourcuff snubbed a deal for Pablo Daniel Osvaldo over concerns of the notorious forward’s attitude, the Swiss would be ready to do likewise for Balotelli.

“I don’t know him personally, but if he runs and wants to help the youngsters, then why not? If he doesn’t want to run, then there’s no way he’ll come here,” the former Borussia Monchengladbach coach, who favours a dynamic and attacking brand of football, declared.

Nice would undoubtedly represent a step backwards, but perhaps the only way Balotelli can kick start himself again is to step out of his comfort zone. For too long he has allowed himself to drift aimlessly. 

Balotelli travels to Nice for transfer talks as Liverpool exit edges closer

The Italian forward has flown to France to negotiate a potential transfer away from Merseyside, exactly two years after signing for the Reds in a £16 million “gamble”


GOAL EXCLUSIVE


Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has travelled to Nice to discuss a move to the Ligue 1 outfit as his calamitous spell with the Anfield club nears its end, Goal can reveal.

No agreement has been struck between the sides yet, with the 26-year-old set to hold talks with Lucien Favre to determine whether a switch to the south east coast of France can act as the catalyst to reignite his career.


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The Swiss boss has made it clear Nice will only recruit players committed to furthering their ambitions, and when prompted about Balotelli said: “I don’t know him personally, but if he runs and wants to help the youngsters, then why not? If he doesn’t want to run, then there’s no way he’ll come here.”

The Reds are hopeful negotiations will prove positive and the Italian can be shifted after being signed exactly two years ago for £16 million.

The move was described as a “gamble” by former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, and has been more risk than reward.

Balotelli is out of contract in 2017 and an exit this summer – even on loan terms – would signal the end of his association with the Merseysiders.

The forward has made only 14 starts in total for the club, netting four times, and spent 2015-16 at Milan on a temporary deal.

FC Sion have also admitted interest in Balotelli with their chairman Christian Constantin saying: “I can confirm we’re discussing about a possible loan, we’re progressing, but I can’t say yet if the transfer will be successful or not.”

Meanwhile, Stoke are hoping to conclude a season-long loan for Mamadou Sakho. 

The French defender needs to build up his fitness as he shakes off Achilles tendinopathy, and Liverpool feel he would have a greater chance of securing games elsewhere as he works on his match sharpness.