Mario Balotelli has reached an agreement to sign for Vasco da Gama, whose potential director of sport says the forward “would be like Maradona” for the Brazilian club’s fans.
The former Manchester City, AC Milan and Liverpool forward, 30, has been without a club since leaving Brescia at the end of last season.
Balotelli’s one-year deal with his hometown club was not renewed as Brescia were relegated from Serie A, but he had not played since March after reportedly missing training and falling out with the club’s hierarchy.
His future has been the source of widespread interest, with reports at one point claiming he had been in talks with Championship side Barnsley.
Now, it seems as though Balotelli’s much-travelled career, which has seen him represent eight clubs in three countries, will now take him to the Brazilian Serie A.
“He’d like to come here,” Fabio Cordella told the Corriere dello Sport. Cordella does not currently hold a position as Vasco but is working with presidential hopeful Leven Siano. “Don’t forget, Vasco are the club with the second-most trophies in the world after Real Madrid.
“I don’t think Mario needs to come to Rio to do stupid things, I think he has reached mental maturity. Vasco are an institution against racism. I hope he can wait for us.”
Cordella warned that the deal was not yet set in stone, and it could be another six weeks before the club are able to sign Balotelli.
“Officially, we cannot sign anyone, but there have been messages and offers," he added. "Formally, we agree on everything, we just have to formalise.
"I hope we can do it on January 15, Vasco need a player like Balotelli and he needs a club like Vasco. For our fans, he would be like Maradona.”
Despite their glittering history, Vasco have struggled this season and currently find themselves in the relegation zone - though they do have games in hand over the teams around them.
Balotelli only scored five goals in 19 appearances at Brescia but some of his recent seasons have shown his goalscoring ability has not deserted him.
After leaving Liverpool in 2016, he netted 43 goals in 76 games in two-and-a-half seasons with Nice, before hitting eight in 15 appearances in a short-lived stint Marseille.