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Nice confirm Mario Balotelli will stay for 2018-19 season; have dig at Marseille

Mario Balotelli will stay at Nice for the coming season after a summer of speculation that the striker would leave the Ligue 1 side.

Balotelli, 28, had been expected to move, with coach Patrick Vieira revealing the Italy international's desire to seek a new challenge after two years on the Cote d'Azur.

The former Inter Milan, Manchester City, AC Milan and Liverpool forward had arrived two weeks' late for the start of preseason training, and -- as he is serving a three-match ban -- has yet to feature for Nice, who have picked up just a point from their opening two games of the season.

It had been expected he had made his last appearance in a Nice shirt, but in the latest twist in a career full of surprises, Balotelli has made a U-turn.

"The decision is taken, well thought through. Mario Balotelli has chosen to stay at OGC Nice," a Nice statement published late on Monday night read, announcing both parties had "decided they will continue their common adventure in 2018-19."

Balotelli, who has scored 33 goals in 46 league starts for the club, had been expected to join Nice's Mediterranean coast rivals Marseille.

"Made a little complicated at the start of the summer by another club from the south of France, the situation is back to normal," the statement concluded in a reference to Marseille's pursuit of the player.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere told L'Equipe that the asking price for Balotelli, who had just 12 months left on his contract, was "between €4 million and €5m," and that Marseille had made a number of propositions.

"OM offered between zero and €2.5m but never more," Rivere said, adding that Marseille had hoped to sell Nice Remy Cabella as a makeweight in the deal. Cabella has since been sold to Saint-Etienne.

"There was a meeting today [Monday] between the player's agent, Mario and us," Rivere explained. "Mario told us he wanted to stay for another season at Nice. The decision was a common one. We've never forced Mario to stay.

"In his head, he's 100 percent with us. Mario was supposedly their priority, but OM missed out on him for €1.5 million."

Balotelli will serve the last of game of his suspension when Nice host Dijon on Saturday and will be available for Vieira when the former New York City FC coach takes his new side to Lyon on Aug. 31.

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