Arsenal have been made odds-on favourites to sign striker Mario Balotelli in the summer transfer window.
SkyBet have shortened the price of the Italian international moving to north London to 8/15, suggesting the switch may well be getting ever closer. AS Monaco are second favourites at 11/4, with Chelsea next in the market at 12/1 and Real Madrid even further back at 20/1.
Goal against England
It all suggests that Arsene Wenger has the edge in the race for the mercurial striker, who bagged one World Cup goal in the 2-1 win over England in their opening game of Group D. However, back-to-back defeats to Costa Rica and Uruguay means he is now heading home with his teammates.
How long he remains in Italy remains to be seen, but things haven't been going exactly according to plan since he signed for AC Milan back in January 2013. He's featured regularly and scored goals, but trophies have not been forthcoming.
Balotelli began his career with Lumezzane, but quickly got a move to Inter Milan - where he won three Serie 'A' titles and a Champions League. It was form that led to a big-money move to the Premier League with Manchester City.
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During his time at the Etihad Stadium, he was never out of the headlines, both in the front and back of the national newspapers. He scored goals, picked up red cards, set off fireworks and much more, with Robert Mancini struggling to keep the 23-year-old on the straight and narrow.
He did help the Citizens to win both an FA Cup and Premier League title, but was ultimately offloaded back to the San Siro - this time with AC - after one indiscretion too many. And, whilst that hasn't been such an issue over the last 18 months, it remains a concern for interested parties.
That is something Arsenal boss Wenger must consider if he does move forward with a bid to bring Balotelli to the Emirates Stadium, and reports on Tuesday claimed the club hope to strike a £27million deal before July 10th.
The date holds significance, as that's when the Gunners now plan to launch their new kit. Puma is the new manufacturer, and they also happen to hold a lucrative boot deal with, you guessed it, Mario Balotelli.
From a practicality point of view, Arsenal are short of a striker. Olivier Giroud is the main man up top for Wenger, with Nicklas Bendtner the best back-up available last term. Joel Campbell is set to return after an impressive World Cup, but Carlos Vela will be staying at Real Sociedad rather than returning to the capital.
Balotelli could be the answer for the Gunners, but there is no doubt his signature represents a gamble. Wenger would need to be confident that he can control the striker, but not prevent him from producing his very best.
It's a fine line which others have struggled to tip-toe across, and there is certainly an element of risk and reward behind such a player. If he were to find his best form and maintain focus, he could make Arsenal title contenders once again.
If it goes the other way, then Wenger's reputation could be in tatters - alongside the large sum of money they would have lost. If the Gunners want to win the league again, then they will have to sign a striker. Balotelli is on the market, and at a reasonable price compared to others. Yes, he's a gamble, but if you're not in it you can't win it, and he could just spark the team into life next season.
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