What now for Mario Balotelli? The 25-year-old striker returned to AC Milan on loan from Liverpool but doesn't look to have a future there following Siniša Mihajlović's comments last weekend. For those who are familiar with Mihajlović's character and career in football, passionate responses in the aftermath of disappointment aren't unusual. Maybe Balotelli will get more chances to show his talents in an AC Milan shirt this season. Stranger things have happened in the world of football, and unforeseen events such as suspensions and injuries may offer a route back into the first team.
The reality, however, is probably a little harsher for Balotelli. Yet another move must be arranged by his agent, Mino Raiola, to ensure that the striker has a new home where he will continue to earn a similar salary to his reported £80,000 contract at Liverpool. In a report in The Guardian, the reliable Andy Hunter indicated that the Chinese Super League may be a potential destination for the former Internazionale and Manchester City striker. Liverpool are contributing to Balotelli's wages, a burden that the club want to end this summer.
The real issue for Balotelli appears to be that he doesn't feature in the plans of Jürgen Klopp, making a return to the first-team picture on Merseyside impossible. Reported interest from Turkey and China offers a chance to recoup a large portion of the £16 million paid for the Italian international's services. Although the player's contract expires in 2017, Hunter mentioned an option to extend the existing deal until 2018. Such an option, however, is not expected to be triggered for an unwanted asset.
The Chinese Super League has announced its enormous spending power in the past couple of months with a string of high-profile signings, including Liverpool's January transfer priority, Alex Teixeira. Ezequiel Lavezzi is the latest star to move to China, leaving Paris Saint-Germain for Hebei China Fortune. Ambitious targets for the summer include Manchester United's Wayne Rooney. Would Balotelli consider a move? Players with ambitions of international recognition such as Teixeira are moving to China, joining seasoned internationals who are still in their prime. Ramires, the 28-year-old former Chelsea midfielder, is supposed to wait for a few more years before journeying to countries considered as footballing retirement homes.
The current transfer window for Chinese Super League clubs closes on 26 February, offering more than enough time for a few more lucrative fees to be paid and contracts to be arranged. Balotelli isn't a bad egg but will hardly attractive to many seemingly suitable European clubs after two successive moves that haven't worked out. With the Premier League set to enjoy even more riches this summer with the start of a new and obscenely lucrative TV deal, Balotelli may be offered a route back to England. The Chinese Super League's ambition and financial power may be compelling enough, persuading another big name to join in.
There must be a desire to prove that he can turn in performances at a top European league and win a place back in Italy's squad. It seems that Balotelii will be unable to do so at either Liverpool or AC Milan. China could be waiting.