Alex Ferguson considered making Mario Balotelli a Manchester United player before his contacts in the game warned him off the maverick Italy international.
Balotelli joined United’s local rivals Manchester City in 2010, helping them to the Premier League title in 2011-12 when he scored a brace in a 6-1 thrashing of Ferguson’s men at Old Trafford.
The striker revealed his iconic “Why Always Me” t-shirt when he opened the scoring in that match after an impromptu fireworks display from his home bathroom earlier that weekend resulted in the fire brigade being called.
Unfortunately for City and Balotelli, tales of the Italians assorted hijinks off the field would far surpass his deeds on it and he was sold to Milan in January 2013.
Balotelli is back at San Siro on loan following an underwhelming spell at Liverpool last year – the prospect of the gifted 25-year-old fulfilling his considerable potential appearing ever more remote.
When these talents came to light during Balotelli’s formative years at Inter, Ferguson – a keen nurturer of young prospects – was alerted but the 73-year-old is ultimately pleased he put his curiosity to bed.
“In 2010 I briefly flirted with the idea of signing Mario Balotelli, the talented but controversial Italian striker,” Ferguson wrote in his new book, ‘Leading’.
“I did my homework on him, speaking to a few Italian contacts, but the feedback I got confirmed it was too big a risk.
“I don’t know whether this sort of candid professional courtesy exists in other fields, but for me it was a Godsend.”
Had Ferguson’s interest in Balotelli developed, it is likely it would have hit another stumbling block.
In ‘Leading’ he expresses a dislike for agent Mino Raiola – Balotelli’s representative who also oversaw Paul Pogba’s departure from Manchester United.
France international midfielder Pogba subsequently shot to stardom with Juventus and is now one of the most coveted performers in the world game.
“There are one or two football agents I simply do not like and Mino Raiola is one of them,” Ferguson said.
“We had Paul under a three-year contract and it had a one-year renewal option, which we were eager to sign. But Raiola suddenly appeared on the scene and our first meeting was a fiasco.
“He and I were like oil and water. From then on, our goose was cooked because Raiola had been able to ingratiate himself with Paul and his family and the player signed with Juventus.”