West Ham United appointed Manuel Pellegrini as their new boss on Tuesday less than a week after they announced that previous boss David Moyes’ short-term contract wasn’t going to be extended following a 13th-placed finish.
The arrival of the 64-year-old is certainly a huge statement of intent from Irons owner David Sullivan – who can go from zero to hero by delivering these three signings this summer – considering he has never finished outside of the top seven at the end of the season when managing in European football with Villarreal, Malaga and Manchester City, winning the Premier League title with the latter just four years ago.
The Chilean chief arrived at the Etihad Stadium in 2013 as he replaced Roberto Mancini, but he narrowly missed out on the opportunity to work with enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli, who left the Citizens to join AC Milan following a rollercoaster spell in Manchester where he was the hero on many occasions, and the villain on others.
While the Italian is a controversial character who has been criticised on and off the pitch on far too many occasions, he always seems to be loved by the fans of the club that he is playing for, and that has been the case at Liverpool, Milan and Nice since he left Man City.
Pellegrini has already confirmed that he wants to sign four or five players during the course of the summer, and one of those may well be a centre-forward despite the fact that he currently has Marko Arnautovic, Javier Hernandez, Andy Carroll and Jordan Hugill at his disposal.
The 64-year-old has tended to play with two strikers in the past, and with continued injury doubts over Carroll, Hugill unlikely to get much of a look in and Arnautovic potentially moving back into a wide position despite impressing as an out-and-out frontman, it could open up an opportunity for a new addition alongside the diminutive Hernandez up top.
Balotelli has just finished another remarkable season with Nice, and with his contract with the Ligue 1 club due to expire next month and no new deal yet agreed, he will be available on a free transfer and likely in-demand.
The 27-year-old ended the 2017/18 campaign with 26 goals and one assist in 38 appearances in all competitions for the French outfit, proving the quality he has and just how influential he can be at a team that isn’t one of the biggest in their division.
West Ham are a similarly-sized club to Nice in their different leagues in that respect, and the Italian’s record of 43 goals in 66 games in total for the side from the French Riviera will surely not have gone unnoticed by Pellegrini.
In fact, back in 2014 the Chilean manager said, via The Telegraph, about the centre-forward prior to his move to Liverpool: “I think Mario Balotelli is a very good player. He went here from Manchester City to Italy but I think he can play everywhere he wants.”
There is little doubt that he would bring a huge goal threat for the Irons and, like the appointment of Pellegrini, it would be another statement of intent for the fans, potential new additions and the rest of the Premier League that West Ham mean business after a disappointing few seasons.
The Italian may be a strong and potentially volatile character, but he is the sort of personality that the London Stadium faithful will love – just like Arnautovic who has become a huge fans’ favourite after a difficult start to his Hammers career for the sometimes fiery Austrian.
While bringing Balotelli to the east London on a likely large wage would clearly be something of a risk, it could be one that pays off with Pellegrini the type of manager that can keep the more mature Italian in line and get him firing in the Premier League next season.
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