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 By Ian Holyman

Mario Balotelli's Nice stay may depend on European qualification - president

Mario Balotelli helped Nice finish third last season.

Mario Balotelli could leave Nice in the summer if they do not qualify for European football next season, club president Jean-Pierre Rivere has said.

Balotelli joined from Liverpool in 2016 and signed a contract for a further year after helping Nice finish third in last season.

Although they lost to Napoli in a Champions League playoff this season, they remain in the Europa League but are 12 points adrift of the top four Ligue 1 spots that guarantee European football.

Rivere told RMC the size of Balotelli's salary meant Nice needed to maintain a revenue stream supported by European competition.

"Balotelli is a very nice guy, and he's incredible on the pitch. He's changing his style of play, I think he's improving," he said.

"But will he want to stay next season? Perhaps. Can we keep him? I don't know. That will depend on results. When you sign Balotelli, it's because you know you have European competition, therefore extra revenue.

"I'm not revealing anything when I say Mario has a certain level of salary. If we're not in Europe, it's not the same level of salary.

"Perhaps, in that case, he'll leave. We have to make sure things are safe."

Hatem Ben Arfa left Nice to join PSG in 2016 but has found playing time hard to come by.

Rivere has also definitively ruled out a return to Nice for Paris Saint-Germain's Hatem Ben Arfa.

Ben Arfa shone with Nice during the 2015-16, scoring 17 goals and assisting six more in 34 Ligue 1 appearances, but his spell with PSG has been disastrous and he has been told to find a new club.

"It is now too late," Rivere said. "I tried to get him back at the end of the summer transfer window. However, there were choices that he made, which I respect and understand.

"This is no longer possible because we already have Wesley [Sneijder], for example, and we cannot have two No. 10s.

"Then, there is also the financial aspect -- we do not have the funds to bring Hatem back. I love him and I would be delighted to see him here again. However, we cannot do that.

"I hope that he will be able to find a club that allows him to express his talents."

Ben Arfa has also been linked with a move to Leicester City since former Nice boss Claude Puel, who got the best out of him at Allianz Riviera, took over at the King Power Stadium.

ESPN FC's Jonathan Johnson contributed to this report.

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman


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