18 June 2014

Transfer-targets: Balotelli at £180k a week? That's a steal!

He's one of the most mercurial players on the planet. On one hand, he's capable of delivering devastating goals from almost any distance and in any manner imaginable. On the other, he's the MacGyver of manufacturing mayhem; give him a paper-clip, three ml of Earl Grey, and a rubber-band, and he'll create a conflagration of epic proportions (and that may not be an exaggeration). The idea that we could get him—far-fetched and rumor-based though it may be—should set our faces to stunned. The idea that we could get him for a mere £27m transfer fee and £180k a week should absolutely floor us. Yes, he's volatile. Yes, he's young. However, as we cast about for other options, we may have to pay double that transfer fee and wages closer to £250k per week—if we're looking at the Costas and Cavanis of the world.

Ballsy move, that.
At one level, we can thank AC Milan for depressing his true value. Coming from Man City, his weekly wage was around £120k. Part of that reflected his potential; part of that reflected Mansour's profligacy. The manchild was a tender 20 years old when he went to the Etihad. Things didn't quite pan out there as Mancini, confusing iron fists and velvet gloves, mishandled him repeatedly—repeating a process begun under Mourinho at Inter. Balotelli's return to Italy may have been a homecoming of sorts (it does seem as if he has Italy close to his heart), but his time at AC Milan has been at times tepid and dilatory, enough so that Inzhaghi seems more than willing to sell him on.

As damaged goods, so to speak, his market-value has dipped a bit, from a high two years ago of some £30m or so (and rising steadily if not meteorically) back down to the mid 20's. He plays a position at which players usually command a transfer-fee double, if not triple that. As such, he should fit Arsène's mold and philosophy quite nicely. His valuation is quite low, but his potential is high, to put it mildly. In other words, he's just the kind of bargain-buy Arsène is renowned (if not reviled) for. The only missing ingredient would be Frenchiness. Then again, Balotelli's biological parents are from Ghana, which was once, um, surrounded by French colonial territory, once upon a time. So there's that.

We have before us a brilliant footballer, hounded by his own misdeeds (the last of which dates back to December 2012, if memory serves, when the lad was a mere 22 years of age. God forbid I be called to the carpet for my misdeeds at the same age—again, if memory serves, I wasn't an international footballer struggling to come to grips with my fame and fortune. I was a wastrel, to be sure, but I didn't have the weight of the world on my shoulders as Balotelli does). Two-and-a-half years on, Balotelli may not have purged his misdeeds, but he may just be poised to deliver on his potential.

So what should we hope for? Will Arsène defy expectations and again break the bank for a top-shelf, pedigreed striker à la Cavani? Or might we count on him to play it closer to the vest, going for the undervalued, full-of-potential starlet? Balotelli may not count as some kind of needle in the haystack, but he's certainly a diamond in the rough. At the rumored prices—a £27m transfer-fee and £180k per week—we might just able to paper deficiencies elsewhere (not that I would recommend it). Look at it this way: is Balotelli twice as good as Giroud, who signed for somewhere in the £12m range and earns around £60k a week? On recent form, perhaps not. Then again, Giroud is 27. We're not likely to see him make great gains in his performance. Balotelli is 23. Who knows what he's capable of once he feels he has the support of his teammates and his manager?

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