Balotelli could be the perfect Arnautovic replacement at West Ham

Marko Arnautovic of West Ham celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Premier League match between West Ham United and Southampton at London Stadium on March 31, 2018 in...

Jose Mourinho still reportedly holds interest in the Austrian striker and West Ham United may have to prepare for his exit.

Marko Arnautovic of West Ham United looks on during the Premier League match between Leicester City and West Ham United at The King Power Stadium on May 5, 2018 in Leicester, England.

West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it's conceivable United could match the fee, or something close, and Hammers manager Manuel Pellegrini may have to line up potential replacements in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises this summer.

Mario Balotelli could be a ready-made successor to Arnautovic at the London Stadium, if Pellegrini could engineer a swoop for the 27-year-old OGC Nice striker.

Nice's Italian forward Mario Balotelli reacts during the Europa League match between OGC Nice vs FC Krasnodar on December 8, 2016 at the Allianz Riviera Stadium in Nice, southeastern...

The Chilean coach is a known admirer of the maverick Italian, having called him "a very good player" in 2014, in quotes via the Telegraph and, given his recent resurgence in Ligue 1, he could represent fantastic business.

Balotelli netted an impressive 26 goals in 38 appearances last term and is currently in some of the finest form of his career. He seems to have prioritised unlocking his footballing potential and put to bed his off-field antics, having been rewarded with a call-up to the Italian national squad as a result.

His edge on the pitch is very much reminiscent of Arnautovic, as both look to use their physical presence to become a nuisance for defenders, while linking play in the final third and looking for any opportunity to test the goalkeeper, meaning the transition to West Ham could be pretty seamless.

Mario Balotelli of Italy reacts during the International Friendly match between France and Italy at Allianz Riviera Stadium on June 1, 2018 in Nice, France.

Pellegrini will be irked that he missed the chance to work with Balotelli at Manchester City - having arrived five months after his departure - but this could now be his chance, and the player has never looked better. 

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