Javier Zanetti has revealed Mario Balotelli could return to Inter Milan, if head coach Roberto Mancini makes him a transfer target this summer.
The controversial striker made his name with the Nerazzurri, having joined from them Serie C1 side Lumezzane as a 16-year-old back in 2007. After making his first team debut during the 2007/08 season he would go on to establish himself as an important fixture in the first team squad, and he soon earned a reputation as one of the most promising players in European football.
But his time at Inter didn’t come without controversy, particularly during the reign of Jose Mourinho whom he endured a stormy relationship with. So when Mancini offered him the chance of a fresh start in England with Manchester City, Balotelli accepted and was transferred for £24million and he would go on to help the Blues win the FA Cup, Premier League and Community Shield.
Although he was a popular figure with the City supporters he continued to court attention both on and off the pitch, and in January 2013 he returned to Serie A with Milan in an £18million deal. Balotelli scored 26 goals in 43 league appearances for the Rossoneri, but once more he fell out with his employers and he was soon back in England with Brendan Rodgers and Liverpool.
So far the 24-year-old’s time on Merseyside has been nothing short of disastrous, scoring just one goal in the Premier League as he struggles to impress sufficiently to warrant a first team place. And with the Reds looking likely to miss out on a top-four finish and UEFA Champions League football, it has been suggested more than once that he will be on his way once more this summer.
With Mancini back at Inter it was mooted that a reunion could be on the cards, and vice-president Zanetti has told Corriere dello Sport this could be a possibility if the coach lists the striker on his wanted list: “In football anything can happen. If Mancini asks us then certainly it could happen. I’m convinced that if he had stayed at Inter he would have matured further.”
Balotelli remains under contract at Liverpool until the summer of 2018, but their chances of recouping the £16million they paid for him last August would be slim to say the least. If Inter were to register an interest in taking him back it would likely be on a loan deal for the duration of the 2015/16 campaign, after which they would review his input and decide on a permanent move.
During his previous three-year spell at Inter, Balotelli helped them to three Serie A titles, the Champions League, the Coppa Italia and the Supercoppa Italia. After making his international debut in August 2010, he has gone on to win 33 full caps for the Azzurri, and appeared at Euro 2012 – in which he excelled – and also in the 2014 World Cup where he scored the winner against England.
Is Mario Balotelli’s return to Roberto Mancini and Inter Milan inevitable, and realistically, how much could Liverpool demand for his transfer?