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Football: Conduct clause reportedly key to Balotelli's Reds move

Mario Balotelli will have to agree to Liverpool's code of conduct if his proposed £16 million (S$33 million) transfer from AC Milan is to be completed, according to reports in the British press on Friday (Aug 22).

LONDON: Mario Balotelli will have to agree to Liverpool's code of conduct if his proposed £16 million (S$33 million) transfer from AC Milan is to be completed, according to reports in the British press on Friday (Aug 22). Speculation over Balotelli's future intensified Thursday after AC Milan acknowledged the temperamental Italy striker was on his way out of the San Siro.

Milan and Liverpool have agreed a fee to let the 24-year-old move to Anfield, media in England and Italy reported. However, several British newspapers said the Merseyside club had held talks with Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola, in Liverpool on Thursday where the terms for concluding the deal were laid out by the Anfield hierarchy.

It would appear Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, having gone through a series of off-field crises with Luis Suarez, the man Balotelli is set to replace, is in no mood for a repeat performance. Balotelli's two-and-a-half years with Manchester City prior to returning to Italy were overshadowed by his off-pitch antics, which included car crashes, setting fireworks off in his bathroom and an incident in which he threw a dart at a youth-team player. He was regularly at loggerheads with then City boss Roberto Mancini and clashed with some team-mates while producing intermittent flashes of his undoubted star quality.

The Milan website reported that Balotelli had said his goodbyes to players and staff after training on Thursday morning, suggesting only personal terms remain to be finalised. If the deal goes through by 12:00pm UK local time (7pm, Singapore time) Friday, his first match could be at his former club Manchester City, who pipped Liverpool to the English title last season, on Monday.

Rodgers is due to hold his regular pre-match press conference at Liverpool's training ground later Friday. Liverpool have yet to make any formal statement regarding Balotelli, but signing the striker would be consistent with their aim to land a top quality replacement for Suarez following the Uruguayan's World Cup biting disgrace and subsequent departure for Barcelona.

During Liverpool's tour of the United States earlier this month, Rodgers had appeared to close the door on a move for Balotelli, saying: "I can categorically tell you that he will not be coming to Liverpool." But with the close of the transfer window looming at the end of the month, it seems the Liverpool manager has had a change of heart brought on by the relative attractiveness of Balotelli's transfer fee and the club's failure sign Monaco's Radamel Falcao as their first-choice replacement for Suarez.

IDEAL MOVE

A return to England and a fresh start could suit Balotelli. The striker has been subjected to criticism in his home country for a perceived poor attitude during Italy's World Cup campaign, which ended with the Azzurri flying home at the end of the group stage. As the most prominent black player in Italy, and the first to represent the country at a major tournament, he has also had to endure regular racist abuse of a kind which is now rare in English stadiums.

Balotelli was always a high-profile figure during his time in England, where he won both the Premier League and the FA Cup but also become a fixture in the gossip pages of the national press. What he perceived as his unjust treatment led to a well-known goal celebration where, after scoring against local rivals Manchester United, he lifted his shirt to reveal a slogan saying 'Why Always Me?' Balotelli eventually left for Milan in January 2013, Mancini having decided the time was right to cash in on his erratic forward.

Luis Suarez caused Rodgers plenty of problems but the Northern Irishman was lauded for the way he was able to get the best out of his star striker, who scored 31 goals last season. Suarez left Liverpool for Barcelona in a £75 million move following his four-month ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in Brazil. Balotelli scored 16 goals for Milan last season, as well as the winner in Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus.