No big clubs in Italy want him and no small ones can afford him. None of the Premier League’s bottom half sides seem willing to gamble a chunk of the new television windfall on him. In Spain and Germany, there isn’t even a hint of interest. Even Turkish and Chinese options seem to have dried up.
For Mario Balotelli, it appears to be a case of Ajax or bust. And for Ajax, it may be a case of Champions League qualification or bust. At least as it relates to their interest in Balotelli, with a handful of outlets in England and Italy, including Sky, suggesting their interest is dependant on Champions League qualification.
Ajax recently advanced to the final playoff round of Champions League qualification, defeating PAOK 3-1 on aggregate in the third qualifying round. There are 20 clubs remaining in the Champions League qualification rounds, and this final round will whittle that number down to ten.
For qualification purposes, the Champions League separates clubs based on whether they qualified by winning a lower-rated league—clubs like Celtic, who are in thanks to winning the Scottish League but still have to qualify, are in this group—and clubs that qualified from lower positions in higher-rated leagues.
Ajax, one of the seeded clubs who are in the preliminary rounds thanks to league position, are set to play one of five unseeded teams who are in thanks to league position. Their potential opponents are FC Rostov, BSC Young Boys, AS Monaco, FC Steaua Bucuresti, or AS Roma. Roma appear the most daunting potential opponent.
The upside of all this is that Mario Balotelli is now a step closer to a new home, as the player’s agent has reportedly held preliminary talks with the Eredivisie club and both sides are genuinely interested in getting a deal done. The downside is that we may not get a conclusion until the end of the month.
Ajax will play their first final playoff round matc on August 16th or 17th, with the return leg set for the 23rd or 24th of the month. Unless something changes, then, we’re in for a bit of a wait to find out what the future holds for Mario Balotelli.