Michael Day: Could Mario Balotelli's arrival at AC Milan swing it for Silvio Berlusconi?

Striker joined from Manchester City in £19m deal

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The Independent Football

Silvio Berlusconi's decision to purchase Mario Balotelli for Milan could buy him two percentage points in the opinion polls as the mogul prepares for a general election this month in football-mad Italy.

Pundits say that signing the high-profile striker could swing the vote in the key region of Lombardy, Milan's base. The leading daily paper Corriere Della Sera said the Balotelli purchase could be worth 200,000 votes in a region that could "prove decisive in providing a majority in the Senate".

Evidence of the mounting excitement in Milan came on Wednesday night when scuffles broke out after a big crowd gathered at the restaurant where Balotelli was dining, causing police to intervene with tear gas.

It's unlikely to have escaped the cunning media mogul's notice that on the very day of the election, 24 February, Balotelli will stride out onto the pitch for the Milan–Internazionale derby.

The president of Inter, Massimo Moratti, told journalists: "Balotelli at Milan? It's their business. It's a good buy. I see this as something useful for Berlusconi in thousands of ways and we'll see how it ends up."

Lending weight to the charge of cynicism against Berlusconi, just a month ago the ex-premier was referring to the temperamental striker as "a bad apple".

But Berlusconi told the TG3 news programme on Wednesday evening that the purchase was for "technical motives for the club". "Balotelli is not an investment for the election campaign," he added.

Renato Mannheimer, a leading pollster, was unconvinced. "There's a Milan-supporting public that no one's ever studied but it exists and it might very grateful to Berlusconi for the new acquisition," he said. "Perhaps a large number of people who are currently undecided will now choose to vote."