Balotelli – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly
Premier League 2014/15
He’s back! Let’s take a look at exactly what Liverpool are getting for their £16 million purchase of Mario Balotelli.
On paper, the £16 million fee for the Italian striker looks like a bargain. In a market where £12 million gets you Shane Long and £14 million Fabio Borini, it looks like a no-brainer for Brendan Rodgers.
If he succeeds his value will soar, and if the move turns sour Liverpool should recoup a significant amount of the fee from the next club willing to take a risk on the mercurial striker.
Despite a patchy scoring record in recent seasons, Balotelli is unplayable on his day. He’s one of the world’s most lethal dead-ball specialists although it’s doubtful he’ll usurp Steven Gerrard from penalty-taking duties, at least initially.
His name alone sends out a statement of intent from Liverpool and will no doubt assist with shirt sales, particularly now that Luis Suarez has departed – whose shirt was the third best seller last season in the Premier League.
Rodgers has a history in nurturing young players, Balotelli is still only 24, with past troubles and will be confident he can do the same with his new striker. Like Daniel Sturridge before him, Balotelli will be aware that Liverpool may be the last chance to prove himself at a big club.
Not least, he’ll inject a bit of fun back into the Premier League, which is severely lacking in big characters.
The majority of Balotelli’s off-field misdemeanours have been relatively harmless when compared to other Premier League stars’ antics. Letting off fireworks indoors is, admittedly, ill-advised but many of his other notorious incidents are either apocryphal or simply raise a smile.
Replying “Because I am rich” when questioned by police as to why he had £5,000 in his car is typical of Balotelli’s unintended humour and honesty, while reports of him dressed as Santa handing out £20 notes to passer-bys in Manchester is also characteristic of him but probably untrue.
His more misguided larks, mainly on social media, pale into insignificance when compared to Suarez’s rap sheet while at the club.
However, it’s his behaviour on the pitch that will make Liverpool fans wary about his capture. He sometimes cuts a disinterested figure on the field when things aren’t going his way, which will not be conducive to the impressive team spirit which Rodgers has carefully nurtured at Anfield.
The fact Liverpool are allegedly insisting on behaviour clauses in his contract suggest that the club have learned their lesson with Suarez and are aware of the risk they’re taking.
Balotelli was sent-off four times in his two-and-a-half seasons at Manchester City and is still prone to moments of madness, epitomised by his needless sending-off for Milan last year against Napoli last year for dissent. However, unlike Suarez, he’s quick to apologise for his misbehaviour but does maintain a recidivist nature.
Indeed, that match encapsulated Balotelli in a nutshell – he missed his first ever penalty, scored an audacious goal…
…and then proceeded to get himself unnecessarily sent-off.
Brendan Rodgers will further enhance his burgeoning reputation if he can manage to encourage the good and curb the bad and the ugly.