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Hunger is back at Barca


Ranieri would welcome Balotelli return

Inter Milan coach Claudio Ranieri says he would welcome Mario Balotelli back to the San Siro "with open arms", describing the Manchester City forward as a "formidable talent".

• Inter's Chivu could join Real

Balotelli, 21, left Inter last summer to move to Eastlands, where he has become a firm favourite of fans and the press thanks to his entertaining blend of raw talent and eccentricty.

The City forward scored his first goal for Italy on his sixth appearance on Friday, as well as creating the second for Giampaolo Pazzini in the Azzurri's 2-0 friendly win over Poland.

That noteworthy showing, coupled with a string of fine performances for Premier League leaders City this season, has made Balotelli one of the most talked about players in Europe at present, with reports in the Italian press regularly suggesting that a number of the country's biggest clubs - including both Inter and AC Milan - are interested in offering him a return to Serie A.

Balotelli insisted last week that he has no desire to move back to Italy, though he did say that he "could return to Inter one day if certain things were in place".

And Ranieri, who replaced much-maligned former coach Gian Piero Gasperini in the Nerazzurri hotseat last month, would be happy to work with Balotelli if he felt the time was right to play for Inter again.

"I would welcome Balotelli with open arms,'' Ranieri said in an interview with Corriere dello Sport. "He is a formidable talent ... He can become one of the best players in the world but it's all down to him."

Former AC Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti believes Balotelli's progress can be attributed to City boss Roberto Mancini's handling of him, and congratulated his compatriot on ensuring the flamboyant frontman has "found the right path".

"Balotelli has matured,'' Ancelotti told Gazzetta dello Sport. "Now on the pitch he shows seriousness and gives an added value to the national team. Mario has found the right path thanks to Mancini.''


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