Balotelli sale leaves clueless AC Milan in no man's land

The Rossoneri have cut ties with the controversial striker, but they need to replace him and have little money with which to do so after such a cheap sale.
When Mario Balotelli arrived at Milan, he spoke as though the club had saved him from his own personal hell.

"I will miss being at Carrington with my Manchester City teammates, the manager and the fans. In everything else I am happy that I have left England," he said. "I don’t like the press, the weather, the food, or the driving.

"I don’t know if I maybe can go back in the future, but right now I want to play here."

Just 18 months later, though, he was ready to embrace all of those negative aspects of life in England once more in a bid to end his spell with the Rossoneri. He was meant to be coming home when he joined the club he had supported as a youngster.

This was supposed to be for the benefit of both the player and the organization, but in the end it suited nobody and Balotelli couldn't get out quick enough. Now he is a Liverpool player, and the club of his heart has only 20 million euros to show for it.

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So wrong did the transfer turn out to be for Milan that the team sold its best player on the cheap. And this at a time when it should have been protecting its assets or getting the highest price possible for its stock.

As a buying club, the Diavolo was one of the best for a very long time. Top stars such as Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, George Weah, Kaka and Andriy Shevchenko were brought in to maintain the club's standing as one of the world’s front runners.

Now Milan is neither a buying club nor a selling club. Selling clubs generally don’t sell at all unless they get the right price. Milan is stuck in no-man’s land. The Italian giant has failed to get the best price for any of its big assets in recent years.

Andrea Pirlo was sent away on a free transfer. Thiago Silva was signed up to a new contract before being sold for less than the price the club had originally rejected. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was sold for just €21 million on the back of a 35-goal season in which he’d proved to be the club’s single most important player.

Now, the last piece of family silver has been flogged at a knock-down price when the club desperately needs money to strengthen its hopes of returning to the top of the Italian game.

POTENTIAL REPLACEMENTS | Who might Milan sign?
Leandro Damiao Santos €16m
Mattia Destro Roma €17m
Fred Fluminense €7m
Jo Atletico Mineiro €4m
Jackson Martinez Porto €30m
Alvaro Negredo Manchester City €24m
Fernando Torres Chelsea €12m
*Figures from transfermarkt

How did things go so wrong between Balotelli and Milan that a club which has been struggling to make ends meet throughout the Financial Fair Play era thought it a good idea to allow its biggest asset to leave for a fee that does absolutely nothing for it.

Signing Balotelli was meant to be the beginning of a new Milan, with the Italy striker as the centerpiece of a more austere approach. But all it did was underline the club’s cluelessness in the market.

Jackson Martinez has been mentioned as a potential replacement up front, so too Fernando Torres, Alvaro Negredo and Mattia Destro. But are any of those players really a possibility when Adriano Galliani et al have dealt so badly in recent times? Why would any of them want to join a mid-table Serie A outfit with a mid-table Serie A mentality?

The Ibrahimovic money was wasted on the likes of Giampaolo Pazzini and Francesco Acerbi. Does anybody truly trust the Balotelli cash to be used any more wisely?

Sure, the club has saved some money on the striker’s €4 million annual base salary, but it will need to match that at the very least if it is to attract a player to take the team forward on the pitch.

The sale of Balotelli is an admission that the club could not manage a talented but troubled player. But more than that, it proves that Milan is no longer swimming with the big fish and neither is this side capable of using the market to work for it.

It is hard to know exactly where Milan goes from here.

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