If transfer talk heated up yesterday it positively went into overdrive today, with just 48 hours of the transfer window left.
As the day progressed, the tweets and reports became more frequent with it being a case of when, not if, the deal would be confirmed and as per The Guardian the confirmation came around mid-afternoon UK time:
Mario Balotelli is on his way out of Manchester City with a deal having been struck for the striker to return to Italy with Milan.
It is believed the Serie A side have agreed to pay around £20m, with some of the fee being made up by bonuses.
City have yet to comment officially but Balotelli was reported to have flown out to Italy. The Milan director Umberto Gandini tweeted: "Transfer agreement for Balotelli signed with Manchester City. Medicals tomorrow in Milan, then personal terms until 2017."
We'll have plenty more on the move over the next couple of days, but for now, some quick early thoughts:
Forget all of the off field issues, the driving force behind Balotelli's future and success at City was always going to be his on field performance. There have been bright individual moments (West Brom away, the FA Cup final, that assist for Aguero) and an important spell during Tevez's exsilium but these have been all too fleeting and his numbers and performance has noticeably regressed over the past twelve months, despite the hope that came from a strong Euro 2012 tournament.
It certainly looks a good deal in terms of the fee recouped as the expected fee was probably more around the £15m mark than the £20m it could work out at. What is important however is the effect it could have in terms of FFP:
Balotelli had a Book Value of £11m.City also save £3m wages & £2.3m amortisation this season.So £20m fee leaves City £14.3m better off.— Ed Thompson (@edthompsn) January 29, 2013
I do feel though that this is the best the deal will be to City. As good a fee as it looks and City of course get out of quite a big contract there is no way the move can improve as far as they are concerned. For Milan, the initial outlay is fairly high but there is the potential for the deal to look far worse down the line for City. This is of course dependent upon Balotelli's performance and how City may replace him but Milan may well likely get the better end of this. Much like in hockey where a talented first line center is traded for some high round draft picks that won't be determined for 3-5 years though.
He does now have a real opportunity at Milan. At twenty-three years of age the flushes of youth are beginning to fade and without a Mancini or Morratti figure to support him he needs to make this the move where his unlimited potential comes to fruition. Balotelli has now been subject to two high profile transfers at a young age but is now, for the first, centre stage at a side; and at his boyhood club to boot. At both Inter and City he as part of a group of forwards, vying for time and more often than not on the outside looking in. At Milan he will be expected to be the focal point of the attack and perhaps crucially will likely start the majority of games, something he has not done before. Is now the time Mario finally becomes the player many have claimed he can be?