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Mario Balotelli turned down Chinese Super League move to stay at Nice - club president

ESPN FC's Julien Laurens and Gab Marcotti explain why Mario Balotelli's hopes of returning to Serie A this summer were dashed.

Mario Balotelli turned down a lucrative offer from the Chinese Super League to stay at Nice, club president Jean-Pierre Rivere has said.

Nice announced earlier this week that Balotelli would remain at the club for a third successive season after having been expected to leave this summer.

Coach Patrick Vieira had urged the club to sell Balotelli, with Nice's local rivals Marseille seeing a deal for him fall through, and Rivere told RMC Balotelli also rejected a move to China.

"We have a player who has been courted, and contrary to what has been said, there have been some very big offers, notably from China and I have rarely seen such a contract for a player," Rivere said. "Mario turned it down straight away because he's interested in the sporting challenge.

"He was a little uncomfortable because Nice isn't playing in Europe, because he's a competitor. He was approached by Marseille, and there were also one or two other clubs. Marseille worked a lot on the matter for quite some time. At the end, Mario decided to stay at Nice and we're very happy, we were looking for a No. 9."

Rivere had said Balotelli had agreed terms with Marseille, but they were unwilling to pay the €4 million asking price. 

"What I know is that instead of offering €2.5m or nothing, I would have offered €4m, Mario would have left," Rivere said. "Because we had promised to keep our word. We wouldn't have fallen short there. But I'm not going to hide the fact that it suits us that he's staying with us.

"We have a coach who imposes his rules on his squad, Mario knows them. If he's not at 100 percent, there's no point in keeping him. It's he who expressed his wish to stay at Nice."

Rivere's version of events were contested by Marseille president Jacques-Henri Eyraud, who explained why he felt the move was not finalised.

"Because the conditions for a deal with Balotelli didn't all come together," he told L'Equipe. "Nice wanted to let him go and I thought it was a transaction that could be done in a way to satisfy all parties. The talks weren't as long as all that.

"At the start of August, I said to Jean-Pierre [Rivere] that I wasn't ready to pay the asking price. There has been zero contact with Nice since then.

"To say that for €1.5m we would have done the deal, it's not the reality and no-one is being fooled. I think the player isn't either. People have said a lot in his name, but we haven't thought a lot about what he wants, his will to go and play in the club of his choice."

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