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Agent Mino Raiola has firmly refuted suggestions of a problematic relationship between Mario Balotelli and AC Milan, following recent comments attributed to manager Sinisa Mihajlovic. The controversial Italian striker, currently on a season-long loan from Liverpool, was introduced as an 88th-minute substitute during a nervy win over Genoa at the San Siro on 14 February.
The Rossoneri were comfortably leading 2-0 in second-half stoppage time courtesy of goals either side of the break from Carlos Bacca and Keisuke Honda, yet nearly put their impressive seven-match unbeaten Serie A run in jeopardy as former Milan loanee Alessio Cerci reduced the deficit late on.
Such a lack of concentration drew the considerable ire of Mihajlovic, who criticised Balotelli and other unnamed teammates for a seeming lack of defensive effort. As quoted by The Independent, he said: "We should've scored a third goal and not risked anything at the end.
"It is also my fault, as those who don't sacrifice themselves for the team to the 94th minute will no longer set foot on the field. It wasn't just Balotelli, there were another two or three as well as him, they know who I'm talking about."
Balotelli is currently in his second stint with Milan, having first represented the 18-time Italian champions between 2013-14 following his departure from Manchester City.
But while that initial spell included an impressive run of 26 goals in 43 league appearances, the 25-year-old has only netted twice in all competitions this term, spending almost four months on the sidelines recovering from groin surgery. Despite that disappointment, Raiola believes that his client's relationship with the club remains cordial.
In an interview with MilanNews.it, he said: "Problematic relationship with Mihajlovic? I do not see problematic relationships, you are making it up. There are no problems between Mario and Milan."
Quite what the future holds for Balotelli beyond the summer remains unclear at this stage. Reports originating from Calcio Mercato earlier this month suggested that Milan do not want to keep the player when his loan deal expires, despite possessing the option to sign him permanently for as little as £5.5m ($7.8m).
Raiola has previously claimed that he could return to Anfield, where he is under contract until June 2018. Jurgen Klopp's arrival as successor to Brendan Rodgers could be a potentially decisive factor, with the latter having recently revealed that the decision to sign Balotelli in the first place came as something of a last resort after Liverpool's failure to capture Alexis Sanchez.
When asked about a potential return for Balotelli last month, Klopp said: "At this moment I don't have the time and capacity to think about things for next summer. Maybe his agent says this and we will have a talk with his agent, but it's nothing I can think about in this moment. I am just thinking about what we can change in this moment."