Mario Balotelli's "astronomical" salary scuppered the chance of a summer move to a summer move to Malaga, the Spanish club's sporting director Francesc Arnau has said.
Balotelli, 26, joined Ligue 1 club Nice on a one-year deal after leaving Liverpool in the summer and has scored six goals in as many Ligue 1 games to help them to the top of the table.
But he could have ended up facing Barcelona and Real Madrid had Malaga been able to afford his wages, reported to be around €4.5 million a year.
"Balotelli was proposed to us. His salary is astronomical. His agent didn't know what clubs could or couldn't pay," Arnau told Cadena COPE.
"He went to Nice because there is a strong economic project with new owners who have invested.
"There was no possibility of him being able to come here."
Meanwhile, Nice goalkeeper Yoan Cardinale said Balotelli had "said a lot of negative things about Ligue 1" when he first arrived.
But he added: "After playing some games, he told us he hadn't expected it to be so hard. It's true that he's really been surprised by the standard of the league."