Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger is finally ready to turn mere speculation into genuine, concrete talks over a £25m move for AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli and will meet his agent Mino Raiola in Brazil on Saturday to talks terms over a potential deal, according to a Goal.com exclusive.
Balotelli's World Cup exploits have so far been overshadowed by consistent back-page headlines over his club future, with AC Milan looking for decisive action over a truly terrible campaign and prepared to sanction their star striker's sale to free up funds for new recruits.
Wenger desperately needs to find fresh attacking options this summer, after only Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey managed to register double figures in the Premier League last season.
Mario Manduzkic, Karim Benzema and Alvaro Morata have all been mentioned in connection with a move to the Emirates, but it looks like Wenger has Balotelli at the top of his transfer shortlist after today's update on the chase for his signature.
Biggest gamble of Wenger's career
Any Manchester City fan will be able to tell Wenger that despite obvious technical skills, clinical finishing and immense physical presence there remain huge questions over Balotelli's temperament, although as Italy manager Cesare Prandelli will testify he is a mercurial talent worth the time and effort.
Balotelli showed his ruthless streak against England last weekend despite having relatively little in the way of quality service during a tight, tense World Cup opener, burying his only clear-cut chance of the match and very nearly making a fool of Three Lions stopper Joe Hart with an audacious chip from a tight angle.
Exasperated Arsenal fans have heard continuously over the last month that the Gunners have a transfer warchest exceeding £100m and are ready to spend it in search of the right talent, but does Balotelli fit the bill.
Wenger seems to believe so and will take time out from his role as a pundit for French television to discuss a possible move for Balotelli with Raiola, although it much be stressed at this stage that there is no concrete proposal on the table for either player or AC Milan.
Making a marquee signing would surely appease the Emirates faithful though and show Arsenal mean business, just a week after former Wenger protege and club captain Cesc Fabregas completed a controversial switch to Chelsea.
Balotelli bagged 18 goals in all competitions last season and is quite remarkably just 23 despite a rollercoaster half decade in the professional game, but still waiting to truly show just how good he can be at club level.
That would seem to make Arsenal and magic but mad Mario a perfect fit, but will Wenger agree and bite the bullet on a blockbuster deal? Maybe Saturday's meeting will provide the strongest indication yet.
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