Mario Balotelli is currently a free agent and sensational reports have emerged over a possible move to Championship strugglers Barnsley.
The Italian forward has been without a club since leaving Brescia in the summer, where his contract was terminated after missing several training sessions, and he has since been training with Serie D side Franciacorta as he seeks to stay fit before finding a new challenge.
Controversy often follows Balotelli wherever he goes, and the 30-year-old is now weighing up his next move – including a possible return to England.
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The former Liverpool and Manchester City forward has been linked with Barnsley, with both The Sun and Sky Sports reporting that the second-tier club have made an enquiry with regards to signing the striker.
Contact was reportedly made between Balotelli's agent and Barnsley co-chairmen Chien Lee and Paul Conway, whose club are currently 16th in the Championship.
Balotelli's enthusiasm to play Championship football is said to have cooled, The Sun reports, but interest is yet to emerge elsewhere for the player.
A Premier League winner with City in 2012, Balotelli last played in England back in 2015, where he featured fleetingly for Liverpool in the 2014-15 season before moving to Milan on loan the season after.
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Balotelli then enjoyed a prolific spell at Nice in Ligue 1, but after falling out of favour under coach Patrick Vieira his contract was terminated in January 2019.
A loan spell at Marseille followed, with Balotelli then turning out for hometown club Brescia in 2019-20 before the relegated club terminated his contract.
Our View: Signing Balotelli always a gamble
The enigma that is Balotelli. Does the Championship beckon for a player whose off-field antics often outshine his actions on it?
His previous spells in England brought with them fabled stories of fireworks, library fines paid off and confronting bullies – mostly unconfirmed tales, in truth – but he also provided memorable moments on the pitch, particularly in City’s title-winning 2011-12 season. The ‘Why Always Me?’ celebration at Old Trafford, and the assist for that Sergio Aguero winner.
It all means supporters and the press alike would relish his return to English soil, although it appears Balotelli is reluctant to take a step down to the Championship.
At 30, he will feel he is still capable of playing in a major European league, but – as ever – he will have to prove it, while any team which takes him on will always know it’s a gamble given the baggage that comes with the talent. The Barnsley move may not happen, but expect another club to roll the dice soon.
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