LONDON – Mario Balotelli’s roller-coaster career took another twist on Thursday when he said goodbye to his AC Milan teammates after training before an expected transfer to Liverpool.
In a brief statement on its website, the Italian club said: “Mario Balotelli drove out of Milanello at 13:30 after saying goodbye to his teammates and the club’s press staff.”
Balotelli’s likely move signals a return to the Premier League where he shone, glowered, delighted and dismayed in equal measure during his time with Manchester City from 2011 to 2013.
The 24-year-old Italian is seen as a natural successor to another colorful and controversial player, disgraced Uruguay striker Luis Suarez, who was sold to Barcelona in July for a reported fee of €81 million ($108 million).
Suarez, 27, was the Premier League’s top scorer last season with 31 goals for Liverpool before being expelled from the World Cup finals and suspended after biting Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini.
Balotelli signalled the move when he told reporters that Thursday would be his last day in Italy.
“Today is my last day in Milan and I am going to Liverpool,” Sky Italia reported him as saying. His agent Mino Raiola was reported to be in England to complete a reported €20 million ($27 million) deal.
Balotelli joined Manchester City from Inter Milan in August 2010 and, after starring in the club’s 2011 F.A. Cup final win against Stoke City, played a prominent role in the triumphant Premier League campaign of 2011-12 as City won its first top-tier title since 1968.
After a series of disciplinary problems including a training ground altercation with then-manager Roberto Mancini, he signed for AC Milan in January 2013.
Balotelli impressed for Italy at Euro 2012 where he scored twice in its semifinal win against Germany and headed Italy’s winner against England in their group stage meeting at this year’s World Cup.
Howard taking break
Star goalkeeper Tim Howard is taking a one-year break from the U.S. national team because of a “commitment” to his family.
The three-time World Cup veteran asked U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann to not consider him for the roster until September 2015. The 35-year-old Howard will continue to play for Everton in the English Premier League.
“Having played overseas for the last 12 years and missing out on spending time with my family, making this commitment to my family is very important at this time,” Howard said in a statement Thursday. “It’s the right decision at the right time. Jurgen has always been up front with all the players in saying you have to earn your place, which is something I agree with. So I look forward to coming back next fall and competing for a spot.”
Howard starred in this year’s World Cup in Brazil, particularly in a second-round 2-1 loss to Belgium in which he made 15 saves.