Milan close on Balotelli deal
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has confirmed a deal to take striker Mario Balotelli to AC Milan is "close" and claimed the Italy international could go on to become one of the best players in the world.
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45. Mario Balotelli
Balotelli has been strongly linked with a move to Milan over the course of the January transfer window, with the Italian club already announcing a deal has been done for the 22-year-old.
And Mancini said after seeing his side draw 0-0 against QPR that the player looks destined to leave the Barclays Premier League champions.
"I think that they are very close (to a deal)," he said.
"We are also so sad because Mario was an important player for us.
"He is a fantastic player but I think for him this could an important chance to go back to Italy and play for another top club like Milan.
"I hope he can continue to improve because he can become one of the world's best players."
Balotelli was set to be involved in City's squad to face QPR but left the team hotel ahead of his move to Milan.
The Serie A giants are believed to be paying around £20million for the Italian forward, with some of the fee being made up by bonuses.
Balotelli will now almost certainly pen a four-and-a-half-year deal with Milan on Wednesday and Mancini, who also managed him at Inter Milan, is clearly sad to see him leave.
"Milan started to talk to Manchester City in the last two days and they are very close," he said.
"This is for Mario because we love Mario and he deserves to have this chance."
Mancini joked in the press conference that while he would miss Balotelli, the media would even more.
On a more serious note, though, the Italian accepts his countryman's departure could adversely affect City's title hopes.
This evening's draw leaves the reigning champions four points adrift of leaders Manchester United, who could extend that further against Southampton on Wednesday.
"It is difficult because I lost one important striker and that could be important in the next 14 games," Mancini said.
"But it is important for Mario - to be back in Italy, back with his family and to play for Milan."
Mancini believes Balotelli has done "very well" in his two and a half years with City, although concedes this season has proved more difficult.
He was also quick to deny suggestions the departure was related to difficulties in dealing with the forward.
"No, no, no, not for me," he said. "For me, Mario was like another of my children.
"Mario is this but you can be upset with him sometimes.
"The club told me they had this from Milan. I spoke with Mario and I think he wanted this.
"I think for him after three years in England to come back to Italy will be good for him."