The Italian media are linking Arsenal to a surprising move for former Liverpool and Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli, whose contract with Nice expires this summer.

La Gazzetta dello Sport made the story front page news on Wednesday, claiming Arsenal, Borussia Dortmund and Marseille are the three clubs interested in signing the player.

The Italian outlet write that Nice are demanding a £9m fee, but there are differing reports on whether they have the right to ask for anything at all. Most outlets claim his contract with Nice expires in June, which should make him available for free.

Mino Raiola, Balotelli’s agent, said as much earlier this year, calling his client a ‘bargain’. However, the Nice president refuted the claims.

“For Balotelli, we still haven’t talked to Raiola. He won’t leave for nothing, that’s out of order [to have said that]!” Jean-Pierre Rivere said. “We need to have a talk with Balotelli, the probability of him leaving is bigger [than him staying].”

Unless Nice have some option to extend, I can’t see how they would go about asking for a transfer fee.

As for why Arsenal would want to sign the striker, he had a fantastic season in France in 2017/18. He scored 26 goals, and provided two assists. In particular he did well in the Europa League, with seven goal contributions in seven games.

If Lacazette and Aubameyang both end up in the first-team, Balotelli could help out with the Europa League, League Cup and FA Cup duties. On a free-transfer and a short-term deal, it might be worth a shot.

Balotelli ‘always’ liked Arsenal

An Arsenal move certainly fits with quotes from the striker himself in 2016, when he talked about a return to England.

“I found myself [performing] very bad in Liverpool,” he explained. “I said the team was good and the fans are amazing, but I would never go back to Liverpool.

“The first one I think in England is Manchester City, and the second team I always like is Arsenal. That doesn’t mean I’ll go to play there. I just like them.”

We’ll see if that ‘like’ turns into anything more this summer.