Jose Mourinho has cooled speculation that Chelsea could sign Mario Balotelli this summer, despite stating that he enjoyed working with the striker at Internazionale.
The Chelsea boss had a tumultuous relationship with Balotelli when managing the then-teenager between 2008 and 2010, although that has not stopped reports that the former Manchester City star could return to England and link up with Mourinho. But, talking to Yahoo, Mourinho explained that he does not think the 23-year-old will be leaving Milan, who he only joined last January, any time soon.
“It was great fun,” he said of working with Balotelli. “I always thought that was great fun and I have good memories of that. Obviously with a kid like him, maybe now he is a bit different but at that time you have your ups and downs and we had our ups and downs but at the end of the day I enjoy; I think he enjoyed too.
“In football you never know the future but I think at this moment he is with a big club, Milan. I suppose that they want to keep the best players and they want to keep the best Italian players. He was already in English football. For sure I am not going to be his manager at Milan or at the Italian national team so I don’t think there is any situation in the future but he’s a good guy, he’s a good kid.”
In the same interview, Mourinho was full of praise for another of his former charges who he is reportedly interesting in bringing to Stamford Bridge. Raphael Varane was signed by Real Madrid as an 18-year-old during Mourinho’s time at the Bernabeu and broke through into the side last season when showing his immense talent.
This campaign has been more difficult, however. The France international has missed much of the season with injury and when he has been fit he has often been forced to play second-fiddle to center-back duo Sergio Ramos and Pepe. Given his immense potential, there still seems little prospect that Madrid will let him go. Mourinho is certainly fully aware of his ability, naming him, alongside Eden Hazard and Neymar, as one of the three young players to watch at this summer’s World Cup.
“I think he’s the best young central defender in the world,” he said. “I think he’s the best.”
Chelsea have already signed another highly rated young French central defender in Kurt Zouma, with the 19-year-old set to arrive this summer after spending the second half of this season back on loan with Saint-Etienne.
Chelsea’s options are certainly far less convincing up front. Mourinho was caught out by a French television station recently joking about the paucity of his current firepower, with Samuel Eto’o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba only scoring 10 Premier League goals between them this season.
Italian publication Tuttosport has claimed that Chelsea are one of three clubs leading the chase to sign reportedly unsettled Manchester United striker Robin van Persie. According to their story, Italian champions Juventus, who tried to sign him when he left Arsenal in the summer of 2012, and big-spending Monaco are also keen. Even if Van Persie, who has cut something of a dejected, and certainly isolated, figure at United of late were to leave this summer, there is surely little prospect of him being allowed to join a Premier League rival.