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 By Ian Holyman

Mario Balotelli set to leave Nice on free transfer in the summer

Nice accept Mario Balotelli is likely to leave the club when his contract expires in the summer, coach Lucien Favre has told Canal+.

Balotelli has excelled in his second season with Nice, scoring a career-best 22 goals, including 14 in Ligue 1 to keep his side in contention for a Europa League qualifying.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere recently rejected claims by Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola, that the former Manchester City and Liverpool forward would leave for free when his contract runs out.

However, before Sunday's 2-1 defeat to Paris Saint-Germain, Rivere said: "It is likely that Mario may be leaving to see other horizons."

After the game, Favre confirmed the club are resigned to losing their star forward.

"It's more likely than not that Mario will leave," Favre said.

Nice's Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli has not been called up by Italy during his time with Nice.

Favre has managed to coax some of Balotelli's best football out of him in the 18 months the pair have worked together. He even claimed "it's not difficult" to manage the notoriously volatile Italy international, who had left Liverpool in summer 2016 after falling out of favour under Jurgen Klopp.

"I think it's one of my best seasons, but I can do much more because I've changed a lot. When you grow up, you become more mature, more stable, so it's easier to focus on football. I hope the best is yet to come," the 27-year-old told Telefoot.

"I'm enjoying it. It's a different experience to what I have had in the past. For the moment, I'm happy, calm. Being calm is the most important thing I have learned being here."

Balotelli has not been able to force his way back into an Italy squad that failed to qualify for the World Cup, despite a return to goal-scoring form. He has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup.

Ian is ESPN's French football correspondent. Twitter: @ian_holyman

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