Football: Liverpool seal Mario Balotelli transfer swoop

Italy's national soccer player Mario Balotelli in action at a training session during the 2014 World Cup.  Liverpool completed the transfer of the AC Milan striker on Monday. August 25, 2014.  -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Italy's national soccer player Mario Balotelli in action at a training session during the 2014 World Cup.  Liverpool completed the transfer of the AC Milan striker on Monday. August 25, 2014.  -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Liverpool completed their signing of AC Milan’s Italy striker Mario Balotelli on Monday.

The 24-year-old emerged as a target for Reds manager Brendan Rodgers last week and Liverpool had been locked in talks with the former Manchester City star’s agent since agreeing a reported £16 million (S$33 million) fee with Milan.

Those negotiations reached a successful conclusion on Monday and Balotelli’s move was confirmed just hours before his new club face his old employers City in a Premier League clash at Eastlands.

“Liverpool can confirm they have completed the signing of Italy striker Mario Balotelli, subject to registration,” a statement on the club’s website announced.

“The 24-year-old sealed his switch to Anfield from AC Milan after passing a medical and agreeing a long-term deal to become the Reds’ ninth signing of the summer so far.”

Balotelli is not eligible to feature against City, but he is reported to be keen to travel to Manchester to watch the match after completing a one-on-one training session with the Reds’ head of conditioning and fitness Ryland Morgans at the club’s Melwood base.

Balotelli had tweeted the news of his signing minutes ahead of the official club announcement, saying: “YNWA! COME ON LIVERPOOL!”

In a club statement on Liverpool’s website, he added: “I’m very happy. We’ve been talking about coming here and now I’m happy to be here.

“Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England and the football is very good here.

“It’s a great team with young players, and that’s why I came here.”

Balotelli is believed to have agreed a three-year, heavily incentivised £90,000-per-week contract as he returns to the Premier League after a troubled 18-month spell with Milan, where he often endured racial abuse from opposing fans.

He scored 30 goals in 54 appearances for Milan, but the Italian outfit were still willing to accept Liverpool’s offer for the controversial star, who has netted 13 times for Italy, including the winner against England at the recent World Cup.

Balotelli’s arrival on Merseyside represents a major gamble given his reputation as one of the sport’s most notorious bad-boys.

As well as dazzling with some spectacular goals, Balotelli has also infuriated a series of managers during a chaotic career which has included spells with Inter Milan, City and AC Milan, as well as with the Italy national side.

He clashed with Jose Mourinho on numerous occasions at Inter and also fell out with Roberto Mancini at City, with his eventual sale to Milan in 2013 prompted by a training ground fight with the then City boss.

Rodgers initially ruled out a move for Balotelli during the club’s pre-season tour of the United States and he is believed to have asked for the player’s contract to include strict clauses about his behaviour on and off the pitch.

Last week, Rodgers said no incoming player would be allowed to threaten the “fantastic environment” at the club.

But the desire to land a top-class replacement for Luis Suarez, who was sold to Barcelona before the start of the season, persuaded Rodgers to sanction the deal for Balotelli, who won the Premier League and FA Cup during his time at City and also won the Italian title three times with Inter Milan.