'Nice beat Lyon to Balotelli'

The striker has made an instant impression at Allianz Riviera but the outfit’s president says he could have moved to their Ligue 1 rivals instead

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere claims his Lyon counterpart Jean-Michel Aulas also wanted to sign Mario Balotelli.

Former Manchester City and AC Milan striker Balotelli joined Nice on a free transfer following a shambolic spell with Liverpool and marked his debut with a brace to help secure a 3-2 win over Marseille.

The 26-year-old completed another 90 minutes in the 1-0 Europa League defeat to Schalke last week before sitting out a 1-1 Ligue 1 draw against Montpellier due to a minor groin complaint but is expected to return for the derby against Monaco.

And, far from being the pariah he was portrayed as towards the end of his time on Liverpool’s books, Rivere claims Balotelli was a man in demand as deadline day approached last month.

“Yes, Jean-Michel Aulas has attempted to recruit Balotelli,” he told L’Equipe. “I learned the day before but it’s okay, it’s part of the game. 

“Signings like Younes Belhanda and Balotelli, you want to do in June but it is not affordable. So you prepare, you work and you try to finish at the end.”

READ MORE | Balotelli failed at Liverpool due to Gerrard jealousy – Diouf

Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola had declared Balotelli will “absolutely return to the Premier League”, casting Nice as something of a stepping stone in his client’s career.

Nevertheless, Rivere is relaxed over the outspoken representative’s latest proclamations.

“This is his player and he is an agent. He is a very good agent because he knows sometimes how to raise the prices,” he said.

“At first, Nice was hard to grasp for Raiola. We will see later in the season, you never know in life.”

One wayward but mercurial star who got himself back on track at Nice was Hatem Ben Arfa, although he has failed to reproduce last season’s sparkling form since joining Ligue 1 champions Paris Saint-Germain.

The playmaker was left out of the matchday squad for a second game in succession at the weekend as Unai Emery’s men routed Caen 6-0.

“I have great affection for Hatem,” Rivere added. “He is a boy I like because he did some great things at the club, and on the human level. 

“I’m sorry for him for this. I want to say, ‘hang on, do not give up’. It will come because he has a real talent.”

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