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Goal.com revealed in December that AC Milan were preparing a move for the striker during January, but their rivals will have the edge in a battle for his signature

Inter's sporting director Pier Ausilio has claimed the Italian club have first refusal on Mario Balotelli should Manchester City decide to sell the striker this month.

The 22-year-old has been heavily linked with a return to Serie A after being involved in a bust-up with Roberto Mancini on January 3, and although AC Milan appeared to be frontrunners for the player's signature, their city rivals have now joined the race for the striker.

And, in light of City's assistant Angelo Gregucci stating that the Premier League champions want to bring Napoli star Edinson Cavani to the Etihad Stadium, Ausilio has claimed an agreement with the club over the Italian.

"It's true, Inter have first refusal right for Mario Balotelli. We will decide to exercise it just whether City will choose to selling him. Mario can play alongside any attacker," Ausilio told Panorama.

Goal.com revealed in December that Milan were preparing a bid for Balotelli, with Robinho and Alexandre Pato being offloaded to fund a move - the latter of which joined Corinthians on January 3.

On Tuesday, AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi claimed Balotelli was a "rotten apple" and dismissed making a bid for the striker, while the City forward's agent has reiterated that his client will remain with the Premier League champions.

"Balotelli is not a rotten apple. He's a cherry," Mino Raiola told Sky Sport 24. "There's a 0,0001% possibility of Balotelli returning to Italy."

In addition to the recent training ground clash, Mancini has openly criticised the youngster’s attitude in training - insisting the striker must try harder if he is to fulfill his potential - but added that Balotelli would be given "100 more chances" to prove himself.

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