Rumours false, but still uncertainty over Balotelli

Posted by Sumeet Paul

Dario Azzaro/AFP/Getty ImagesMario Balotelli seems committed to Milan for the short term, but a long-term stay is far from a certainty.

As has been the case throughout his career thus far, things are never quite simple when it comes to Mario Balotelli. Seemingly destined to forever be a media favourite for perhaps all the wrong reasons, admittedly in this instance through no wrongdoing on his part, his future at Milan has come into question over the festive period.

Secolo XIX made the initial claim last week, reporting that President Silvio Berlusconi had put the 23-year-old on the market amid a furious outburst, which suggested he wanted him out of the club in January.

As expected, an almost immediate riposte arrived on the Rossoneri's website, dismissing the quotes and any suggestion that Balotelli was available for transfer. That appeared to have cleared up the situation, but it wasn't long before apparently falsified quotes attributed to agent Mino Raiola arrived.

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The report claimed that Raiola conceded that his client wanted to leave Milan in January, but added that Chelsea were a viable option despite the fact that no offers had arrived. Amusingly, the British media went into overdrive at the prospect of a potential return of "Super Mario," but once again the story was dismissed.

Raiola spoke to reporters on Monday and categorically denied speaking to anyone regarding Balotelli's future, and went on to label it "low-level journalism."

To sum it up, Balotelli is not for sale and will not be leaving Milan in January, which is the best outcome possible after a completely unnecessary and unfortunate distraction during the winter break.

Nevertheless, the speculation did raise a valid point considering both the player and club -- would Milan would be stronger with or without the Italian international?

First, it is important to stress that there is no questioning Balotelli's ability. As has been the case for several years, he has the talent to be regarded as one of the top five players in the world.

His return to Italy had seemingly helped him to mature and accept the additional responsibility that comes with being an icon for both club and country. It would have been difficult for the media to pick out any faults during his first six months at San Siro.

However, as Milan have struggled this season, the negativity has returned and there has been a growing sense that all is not well.

The danger of the current situation is that the Italian striker could allow his ambition to eclipse his loyalty to the club. If Milan are unable to challenge for honours or Champions League football in the immediate future, it could well force him to reconsider his options.

In turn, the financial return should the club decide to sell would be significant, with the hope that the reported 25-million-euro price tag was incorrect. Some will argue that the funds would allow Milan to strengthen the overall squad, but it is a strategy that has been adopted before and look where it has left the club.

In short, the Rossoneri can ill afford to sell Balotelli, who should be the focal point of this team for years to come. But he shouldn't be made to feel more important than the club itself. However, if Milan are unable to match his ambition moving forward, then the possibility of a return to England may not be such a laughing matter.

Would a Balotelli exit be a disaster for Milan? Can the club match his ambition?

For all the latest Milan and Serie A news, you can follow me on Twitter @italiafooty

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