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Perhaps the stupidest transfer rumour of all time

Silly season comes early at United, as reports from Italy emerge of a baffling swap deal.

Gabriele Maltinti

There is a certain art to a good transfer rumour. It needs to strike a good balance between ridiculousness and plausibility. Too obvious, and nobody gets excited; too silly, and nobody pays any attention. Ideally it needs to be rooted in something that vaguely resembles truth, but since that includes the suggestions of friends, or friends of friends, or sources of even greater dilution, then there's not too much to worry about on that front.

Milan set to offer Mario Balotelli to Man Utd in exchange for unsettled Robin van Persie

Oh. Oh wow.

This story reaches the Anglophone world through the Daily Express, but appears to have originated with Italian website SportMediaset. TBB does not know if they are reliable when it comes to this sort of thing, but ... well. Obviously there's nothing to stop Milan offering, but let's take a look at a few of the reasons why this would be, to put it mildly, a surprise.

1. Hahahaha!

2. Mario Balotelli?

3. Hahahahahahahaha!

4. Oh, mercy ...

5. *breathes into paper bag*

6. There's some other Mario Balotelli, right? One that plays in midfield?

7. Perhaps it's just about possible that a club currently without a manager would swap their best striker, a man who didn't like the old boss but gets on very well with the likely new boss, for a player who, while as talented as it gets, is more or less the very definition of a gamble, who has managed to get on the wick of every manager he's ever worked with, and whose only other experience of Premier League football came at Manchester City, where he remains something of a cult hero.

8. Hang on, no it isn't.

9. Though it would be a lot of fun ...

10. ... d'you reckon they'd take Wayne Rooney?