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Mario Balotelli says farewell to A.C. Milan

Mario Balotelli said his goodbyes to fellow A.C. Milan teammates and staff after training on Thursday, the club's website reported, suggesting that only personal terms remain to be finalized before his shock move to Liverpool.

Mario Balotelli says farewell to A.C. Milan
Mario Balotelli spent three years playing for Manchester City. Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Mario Balotelli was set for a shock move to Liverpool on Thursday as AC Milan acknowledged that the controversial Italy striker was on his way out.

The Milanese club have agreed to let the 24-year-old move to Anfield in a transfer worth €20 million (16 million pounds, $27 million), according to reports in England and Italy.

While a Milan spokesman said he could not confirm any talks or deal, the club's website reported that Balotelli had said his farewells to Milan players and staff on Thursday morning after training. 

The move reflects Liverpool's determination to land a top quality replacement for Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's World Cup biting disgrace and subsequent departure for Barcelona.

During Liverpool's tour of the United States earlier this month, Reds boss Brendan Rodgers had appeared to close the door on a move for Balotelli, saying: "I can categorically tell you that he will not be coming to Liverpool."

But with the close of the transfer window looming at the end of the month, it seems the Liverpool manager has had a change of heart over the pursuit of a player he has described as a rare talent.

Balotelli's two and a half years with Manchester City were overshadowed by his off-pitch antics, which included car crashes, setting fireworks off in his bathroom and an incident in which he threw a dart at a youth-team player.

He was regularly at loggerheads with then City boss Roberto Mancini and clashed with some team-mates while producing only intermittent flashes of his undoubted star quality.

Liverpool have reportedly targeted Monaco's Radamel Falcao as their first-choice replacement for Suarez but appear to have made little headway in their attempts to secure the Colombian, who missed the second half of last season and the World Cup with a serious knee injury.

A return to England and a fresh start could suit Balotelli. The striker has been subjected to criticism in his home country for a perceived poor attitude during Italy's World Cup campaign, which ended with the Azzurri flying home at the end of the group stage.

As the most prominent black player in Italy and the first to represent the country at a major tournament, Balotelli has also had to endure regular racist abuse of a kind which is now rare in English stadiums.

Balotelli was always a high-profile figure during his time in England, where he won both the Premier League and the FA Cup but also become a fixture in the gossip pages of the national press.

Awkward character

What Balotelli perceived as his unjust treatment led to a well-known goal celebration where, after scoring against local rivals Manchester United, he lifted his shirt to reveal a slogan saying 'Why Always Me?'

Balotteli eventually left for Milan in January 2013, Mancini having decided the time was right to cash in on his erratic forward.

Rodgers may feel he can do a better job of managing a striker with his best years theoretically ahead of him.

Suarez's caused Rodgers plenty of problems but the Northern Irishman was lauded for the way he was able to get the best out of his star striker, who scored 31 goals as the Reds narrowly missed out on the Premier League title last season.

Suarez left Liverpool for Barcelona in a £75 million ($125 million) move following his four-month ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in Brazil.

Although Rodgers has already re-invested some of that money in signing a clutch of new players, he needs to strengthen a forward line that includes the England duo of Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert, neither of whom can match Balotelli in terms of power and pace.

Balotelli scored 16 goals for Milan last season, as well as the winner in Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus.

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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