AC MILAN are prepared to offer Manchester City an instalment-based deal which would guarantee them their money back if the Premier League champions agree to sell Mario Balotelli before next week's transfer deadline.
City manager Roberto Mancini has sanctioned the sale of the controversial 22-year-old this month, but the club's hierarchy have made it clear the former Inter Milan player will only be sold if an offer which meets their market valuation is received.
City paid £22million to sign Balotelli from Inter in July 2010 and believe that is still the right price for the Italian international, despite the numerous episodes of indiscipline he has been involved in, both on and off the pitch, during his time at the Etihad Stadium.
Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani insisted at the weekend that City's initial valuation of £30m was excessive, but it is understood that the Italian giants are prepared to pay the £22m City are looking for.
The sticking point is likely to be Milan's attempts to structure the deal to pay for Balotelli over as many as six instalments.
City are reluctant to sell him on those terms, but with Milan still to make a formal offer for the player, senior figures at the Etihad are prepared to wait for the Italians.
Meanwhile, Manchester City right-back Pablo Zabaleta expects to overcome a foot injury to feature in next weekend's FA Cup fourth-round trip to Stoke.
The Argentinian gave manager Roberto Mancini a scare when he limped off after 64 minutes in City's Premier League win over Fulham at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.