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ESPN FC Posted by ESPN staff
Jul 22, 2014

Mario Balotelli key for Milan - Inzaghi

AC Milan coach Filippo Inzaghi believes Mario Balotelli is an "important player" for the club despite speculation linking the forward with a move away from San Siro this summer.

Balotelli, 23, endured a disappointing World Cup with Italy, scoring just once as the Azzurri crashed out of the competition in the group stages.

Rossoneri general manager Adriano Galliani says the club have yet to receive a formal offer from Arsenal (or any other club) regarding a potential deal for the striker, and Inzaghi is keen on tapping into Balotelli's potential as the side sets off on a U.S. preseason tour.

"Balotelli is an important player for Milan," he told the club's official website on Tuesday. "I want to know him so he can give us more. I cannot judge before knowing the person.

"For me Balotelli is a talent, as well as an important player for Milan. I'll have to get the best out of him.

"The two Milan strikers will be Balotelli and [Giampaolo] Pazzini. They have similar characteristics but are different at the same time. We are very relaxed about it."

Inzaghi took over from Clarence Seedorf following the former Milan midfielder's sacking in June, after the Dutchman was unable to arrest the club's slide down the Serie A table as they finished seventh last season.

And Inzaghi -- himself a former Milan striker -- says that while signings are important for the coming campaign, the future of the club is secure given their youth prospects.

"The dinner with president [Silvio] Berlusconi, the CEO Adriano Galliani and CEO Barbara Berlusconi was pleasant," he continued. "There is a great desire to do well, there is strong unified sense of purpose.

"Adriano Galliani speaks about the transfer market. If a few players arrive that will be fine, otherwise we'll make up for it with other qualities. The club, however, knows my needs. We have some good young players and Milan's future is guaranteed."

Inzaghi revealed that Balotelli asked for a fitness trainer in order to prepare for the 2014-15 campaign after a disjointed World Cup, while he dampened hopes that 16-year-old youth prodigy Hachim Mastour could soon become a regular in his side.

"We must be clever with Mastour, without putting too much pressure on him," he said. "He has to become a real man, then he can become a great player. He has great quality, but he's just 16, so we'll try to stay calm."

And looking ahead to the new season, Inzaghi believes that Juventus are still favourites to win their fourth consecutive scudetto despite the departure of Antonio Conte last week, with the Bianconeri choosing former Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri as his replacement.

"Juventus will be the team to beat, despite the departure of Conte, who is a great coach," he added. "I hope he becomes the Italy coach."

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