West Ham United are staring down the barrel of a season-defining exit as Marko Arnautovic looks destined to leave the club for China before the end of the month, but they could yet retain a hot-headed streak at the spearhead of their attack by making an ambitious move for Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli is one of those rare enigmatic characters who only comes along once in a blue moon. The fact Balotelli’s solitary assist during his time at Man City arrived when he slide tackled the ball into Sergio Aguero’s path to facilitate the most iconic goal in the club’s, and arguably the Premier League’s history, is one of those bizarre quirks which adds to the mystery of his compelling character.
After two and a half years with Ligue 1 outfit Nice, it appears that the Italy international is looking to embark on a new challenge in 2019, with Marseille mooted as a potential destination.
According to a recent report from L’Equipe, Balotelli is in talks with Marseille over a potential contract which would be worth €500k per month, (roughly £111k per week), but no agreement in yet in place between the two parties.
With that said, the door remains open for Manuel Pellegrini to hijack the potential move and secure the services of a player who would offer a similar mental and physical presence to Arnautovic at centre-forward.
And, considering his contract is due to expire in the summer, he should be available at an incredibly attractive price if the Hammers come calling.
Naturally, sections of the Hammers faithful are likely to have their reservations about Balotelli due to his well-documented history of mischief, ill-discipline and purely bizarre behaviour both on and off the field.
But during his time at Nice he has matured into a well-rounded player, scoring 43 times from 76 appearances in all-competitions. The moments of madness and controversy which somewhat tarnished his previous spells in English football have not been completely eradicated, but it’s fair to say he has completely transformed that side of his game.
Balotelli now effectively channels his aggression and hot-headedness into all-round quality performances at centre-forward, much in the same way Arnautovic has done during his time at the London Stadium.
His wage demands, if reports from L’Equipe are to be believed, are far from modest but, considering Nice will be forced to offload him on the cheap this month and the huge fee West Ham will be expecting to receive for their Austrian talisman, he would represent incredible value.
In a market defined by extortionate transfer fees, particularly in January, Balotelli represents an ideal value for money replacement for Arnautovic.
West Ham fans – thoughts on Balotelli? Let us know below!Like what the TT have on offer? Sign up for more notifications!