Despite claiming on August 3rd that Liverpool would not be signing Mario Balotelli, Brendan Rodgers has signed the mercurial Italian to his forward line, in a major signing for the Liverpool club.
There had been worries about Liverpool’s transfer business this summer with the club having failed to suitably replace Luis Suarez with a renowned name despite spending upwards of £100million on new players. Mario Balotelli however is the elite name Liverpool have been searching for and undoubtedly the Italian has the talent to excel on Merseyside, but is that enough.
Balotelli has long been considered difficult to handle with Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini both deeming him impossible to keep under control despite both being generally well enamored with the 24-year-old as a person.
Balotelli is an incredibly talented footballer and when the conditions are perfect for him to play without pressure and constraints, the Milan forward is outstanding. His performances at Euro 2012 showed a player on the road to reaching the potential he had shown throughout his youth career with Internazionale. However he has since struggled.
Roberto Mancini persevered with Balotelli at Manchester City and gave him chance after chance but in the end it all became too much with a training ground scuffle between the pair sealing Balotelli’s fate before a move back to the San Siro with Internazionale’s fierce rivals AC Milan in January 2013.
In Milan, Balotelli has continued along the same career path, impressing with moments of pure genius, most notably his long distance strike against Bologna in February, only to struggle with consistency due to a labored work ethic.
Given Balotelli’s age and the managers he has worked under at previous clubs, this is a problem that is unlikely to go away.
One of Luis Suarez’s best characteristics at Liverpool was his almost superhuman level of consistency, you simply couldn’t keep him out of matches and the Uruguayan had an uncanny ability to string match winning performances across upwards of five consecutive matches. Balotelli is seemingly incapable of this.
Whilst Brendan Rodgers has done remarkable things returning Liverpool to the upper echelons of the Premier League there are still questions around how he deals with egos and high maintenance stars.
His relationship with Luis Suarez was difficult to gauge, Rodgers fought tooth and nail to keep him at the club in the summer of 2013 despite the player’s desire to leave and suspension courtesy of biting Branislav Ivanovic however there never seemed to be any possibility that Suarez would remain at Anfield for the long haul.
Rodgers, particularly over the past twelve months indulged Suarez, and why not? The results on the pitch were miraculous but there was still always an underlining feeling of mistrust following the saga involving Arsenal and Suarez’s disputed buy-out clause the previous summer.
However any problems between the pair were off the pitch, Suarez’s problems, whilst high profile, were not regular. Balotelli is different, the Italian needs constant reassurance when on the field and doesn’t respond well to criticism, as Jose Mourinho once said, “I spent 14 minutes of the 15 [half-time] speaking only for Mario.”
Brendan Rodgers’ approach at Liverpool has always been about a strong team ethic with every player working for each other towards a clear goal be that in the short-term of a match or the long-term of a season.
Balotelli doesn’t fit into that and given how the situation with Suarez ultimately ended with the player departing, it remains to be seen if Rodgers can nurture and keep Mario Balotelli happy and more important consistent. As gifted as the pair are, I have my doubts.