Jose Mourinho has revealed his admiration for Mario Balotelli, which has inevitably fuelled speculation over a summer bid for the striker.
The Chelsea coach worked with the controversial Italian during their time at Internazionale, when they won back-to-back Serie A titles, the Coppa Italia, the Supper Coppa Italia and, most impressively of all, the UEFA Champions League together. Despite this roll of honours, the pair were said to have an often-volatile relationship, but there is little doubt that they share a mutual respect which could yet lead to a reunion.
Balotelli has in the past revealed that he would be interested in playing under Mourinho again, and the Stamford Bridge boss has this week returned the compliment. However, the Portuguese also accepts it would be difficult to prise the former Manchester City ace from Milan, for whom he has scored 26 goals in 41 appearances in all competitions.
“Balotelli is with a big club at the moment but you never know the future,” he told Yahoo. “They want to keep the best players and want to keep the best Italian players. But Mario has already been in English football before. I’m not going to be manager of Milan or the Italy national team, but he’s a good kid and somebody I’d like to work with again.”
Although Chelsea are currently on track for glory in both the Premier League and Champions League, it is clear that Mourinho will look to spend big on a striker during the summer. His current options include £50million Fernando Torres, yet he has scored just four goals in 20 league appearances this term. Samuel Eto’o, meanwhile, has six in 17, whilst Demba Ba has one in 12. Indeed, their leading goalscorer is Belgian international playmaker Eden Hazard, who has been brilliant and chipped in with 12 goals in 28 matches.
One problem Mourinho has not had this season is his defence, which boasts the best record in the top-flight with just 22 conceded. However, he could even look to bolster this area ahead of next season as his revolution at the capital club grows pace, with Saint Etienne starlet Kurt Zouma already heading to the club in the summer. And he admits he would love to be able to count upon his former Real Madrid charge, Raphael Varane.
“I think he is the best young central defender in the world. Already I think he’s the best,” he added of a player he signed from Lens in 2011, amidst fierce competition from Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United. “A young player must be somebody who plays in the World Cup for the first time. These are players like Hazard, Neymar and Rafa Varane.”