Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

With Balotelli, the Truth Is ... Somewhere

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

With Balotelli, the Truth Is ... Somewhere

Article excerpt

Mario Balotelli was just a medical examination away from leaving Manchester City to join A.C. Milan.

If truth is the first casualty of war, what is it in sports?

On Wednesday morning, Mario Balotelli was just a medical examination away from leaving Manchester City to join A.C. Milan.

The fee, give or take a 10 percent swing from what the buying and the selling clubs were saying, amounts to EUR 25 million, or almost $34 million.

Wages are extra, and it is said that Super Mario was so eager to get back to Milan that he offered to waive EUR 1 million a season to get the deal done.

Somewhere in all of that, there must be a grain of trustworthy information. But in the course of the transfer, the most memorable in the January transfer window, truth has taken a far mightier battering.

It was on Jan. 8 that Silvio Berlusconi, Milan's owner, spoke to reporters. "The name Balotelli?" he mused. "Never came into my thoughts. He is a rotten apple and could infect every group where he goes, even Milan."

So we should take that as a no, that the transfer the whole of soccer was discussing would not happen. Unless, of course, Berlusconi was bluffing. Unless it was a bartering ploy to drive down the price?

Surely not, for Berlusconi has been prime minister and even talks of rescuing his country again from its financial plight.

Meanwhile, Roberto Mancini, the Italian who coaches Manchester City and who often has staked his personal reputation on Super Mario, was still insisting on Saturday night that Balotelli was not for sale.

"It is not true," Mancini said, straight-faced. "Mario stays here. We didn't have any requests about Mario or other players."

Maybe it's an Italian version of poker. Maybe the haggling was always going on. Maybe the late intervention of Juventus, Milan's rival, enquiring about the price for Balotelli hastened the deal?

Whatever, the man is on the move, and it appeared not to be to West London -- which Mancini had insisted until the last moment was the only place Balotelli was traveling to, to be part of the City squad in an English Premier League game at Queens Park Rangers on Tuesday night. (The teams drew, 0-0.)

Throughout all of this, the one clear truth has come from Cesare Prandelli.

He, the national team coach of the Italian Azzurri, has put faith in Mario Balotelli when others have tended to agree with Jose Mourinho, one of Balotelli's previous coaches, at Inter Milan. …

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