"Balotelli - Are you on board?"
I love the phrasing of this question because "on board" is exactly right. It's like being at Alton Towers as a Red right now: you step off one roller coaster and jump straight on board the next one because just as Luis Suarez goes, in comes Mario Balotelli. I'll say one thing for Brendao (copyright P. Coutinho), he certainly has no doubts at all about his ability as a man-manager by electing to take on "The Balotelli Challenge".
And that's because the stories about his excesses both on and off the pitch are legion. In fact if you wanted to create a list of headlines garnered by the Italian for all the wrong reasons then it would be quite a long one. However, look behind the bluster and there's actually not too much to concern us. Fireworks, giving away cash, not liking his manager man-handling him like he was a three year old - so what?
I'm not in the slightest bit concerned by all that stuff. In fact much of it is ace. Where's the harm in getting the beers in for an entire pub full of supporters or handing out twenty pound notes to passing strangers in the street? There's nothing immoral or criminal going on with Mario; just a lack of maturity and an impulsive streak tempered by a generous spirit.
Furthermore he's highly talented with strength, pace, skill and the ability to score from anywhere. He had a good scoring record with City when he was far from first choice and has averaged one in two in Italy with Milan. The lad has ability in spades and is a serial winner to boot: four league titles in England and Italy, plus two domestic cups and the European Cup on top - and all by the age of 24.
So in that case, why are we getting Italy's number one striker for the cost of Fabio Borini plus change? Well quite simply, he has a propensity for his head to go either down or west and that costs his team in red cards and anonymous performances (subbed on and then off again at Anfield couple of years ago, for example). His effort also appears lacking at times and numerous managers have tried and failed to sort him out. So why should we be any different and all at the risk of wasting significant money and a crack at the title on him?
In short, because we have to. Don't get me wrong here, the chances of a full rehabilitation of the player and a complete realisation of his enormous potential are slim to none. However, if we can keep his worst habits in check and avoid disruption to the team then it's a gamble worth taking at that price in a transfer market that lacks top quality of any sort, never mind available top quality. There's a Suarez shaped chasm at Liverpool that needs filling and Mario Balotelli could fill in more of it than just about anyone else we have even a hope in hell of signing with less than a fortnight to go until the transfer window shuts.
In Brendan Roders and Steve Peters we have the ideal men to maximise his output both on and off the pitch. Our team is ripe for a second striker to slot in next to Sturridge so we can revert to our best formation of the midfield diamond that leaves opponents exposed to goals from almost every angle of the pitch when stocked with the right players. People have cited a laziness in Balotelli that is anathema to our hard-pressing style. However, I don't see him as lazy; rather I see him as disaffected and under-utilised. Certainly, the men who helped turn Luis Suarez into the best player in the world last season should be able to come up with something to harness this lad's talent.
Furthermore, I think it will help a player, who has been an outsider, outcast or even victim of disgusting racism in every team in which he's played, to be at club increasingly laden with young, black, highly talented colleagues. What will definitely help is being on the receiving end of The Kop's appreciation though. If ever there was a set if supporters who love a talented rebel, it's ours and I think that will be just what he needs.
When all's said and done, this remains a massive risk that is unlikely to have an unequivocally positive outcome. The bottom line though is that we are not able to go toe to toe with the richest clubs in Europe when it comes to recruiting talent and we therefore have to find every bargain/loophole/complete and utter mentalist that we can. If Balotelli had Messi's character, he'd be playing with him every week. He hasn't though which is why he's on our radar. Clearly this signing could go either way, but for the money we're talking, in these circumstances post-Luis and at this stage of the window, I think we'd be mad not to do it.
So, I'm very much on board with this signing and already strapped in ready for the ride because it's going to be a wild one and I cannot wait. Going to Anfield this season just got unpredictably exciting again and I didn't think I'd be anticipating that this time yesterday.
We had this discussion on the forum briefly earlier in the summer after Rodgers complimented Balotelli in a press conference during our time in America. Would we or wouldn’t we? A lot of people were unsure, but now a month or so later there’s further proof that talk is cheap and that things can move pretty fast in football. Tentative discussion has turned into fully blown debate, because the deal is in place and we have only to agree personal terms to unleash Balotelli on Merseyside.
Balotelli the man as opposed to the footballer is clearly a nutcase. A harmless one, granted. It isn’t like he’s sparked anybody out or anything like that; he just flirts with eccentricity on a daily basis. My tune hasn’t changed since he was at City – I like him, I find him relentlessly entertaining and there’s a good player in there whenever the Italian can be bothered to channel it.
But these are the big issues aren’t they? How often can he be bothered? Rodgers has developed a system at Liverpool which gets us doing exactly what we want to do – pressing the opposition high up the pitch, pinching the ball and dominating possession of the ball. Balotelli will need to adjust to these expectations – and fast.
That is my primary concern to be honest. If he’s a lunatic off the pitch it doesn’t bother me too much; as long as he’s being legal about it then I can just about cope! I would prefer a quieter life after the persistent media cloud that has hung over Suarez but it won’t be the same kind of attention. Balotelli garners interest for different reasons – and I can’t blame people for being interested in him to be honest.
No, he doesn’t appear to be a bad person or aggressive or anything like that. Footballing reasons are what I wonder about far more with this deal. He is prone to going missing for long spells of games, especially if things aren’t going his way. We can’t handle that; we need everyone to stand up and be counted and to put the graft in. This is where this transfer will be decided – will Balotelli stand up and be counted?
He has the assets to be an absolutely top rate footballer. He’s strong, he’s very quick, he scores goals and he takes penalties and free kicks. What the challenge now is for Rodgers and the much vaunted Dr Steve Peters is to get him to maximise his abilities. How will Balotelli respond? I don’t know, does anybody? Does even he know?! I do trust Rodgers not to put the fantastic progress we have made at risk though by bringing a bad apple into the camp.
I can’t throw myself behind this one completely because we need tactical discipline and we need him to give 100% effort all of the time. Also, our track record with Italians doesn’t bode too well but if anyone can shrug off the doubts and explode into the Kop’s heart it is going to be this lunatic.
Overall though, we can’t dine from the top table where the likes of Falcao, Cavani et al are sat just yet. We need to take a gamble on the likes of Balotelli (or pinch bargains like Coutinho) and if we can get a 50% increase in effort from Super Mario we could well have bagged ourselves a great deal again.
Either way, we need a striker and Balotelli fits the bill. But look out for whenever the Chaos Master plays, because he lives his life by the seat of his pants.
Well at least this isn’t a transfer saga. The club’s pressing need for an alternative, or accompaniment, to Sturridge has led them to Milan and Balotelli. Clearly the club are like one of those people who like being in relationships with lots of aggro and difficulty. You know the type, there’s a kick off every five minutes over ‘how much milk is left?’ and ‘was that person giving you the eye?’.
Not that Balotelli has committed acts like Suarez, I mean he’s only done stuff like crash his Audi whilst carrying thousands in cash and when asked by police why he had that amount he responded with “because I’m rich”. Or the time he threw a dart at a City youth team player (reports are that no one was hurt so he must be a shit darts player) and let’s not forget his fight in training with Mancini. He’s also been sent off numerous times and been involved in a couple of questionable tackles. So no, he’s nothing like the trouble Suarez brings, Suarez seems positively sedate by comparison.
Balotelli has always struck me as a kid who never grew up. He’s like Tom Hanks in Big but without the charm of being Tom Hanks. I doubt there’s ever a lot of malice in what Balotelli does, he does it because he can and it probably seems like fun at the time (like setting fire to his house because he was letting off fireworks). To use a cliché he’s a character, I’m not sure that he’s the type of character that Liverpool need right now.
To be honest I’m struggling to recall Balotelli’s good performances for City because I can only remember the sulky ones. That’s unfair as there were undoubtedly good ones; it’s just that I can’t quite remember them. There’s always arguments about whether signings are ‘Rodgers signings’ or ‘committee signings’ so considering Balotelli’s past, it’s hard to say this one doesn’t pass through without Rodgers giving his approval. I’d also assume that there’s a little bit of ego with Rodgers here, football is littered with instances of managers thinking they can solve the problems of players like Balotelli. After all, if you’ve looked after Luis Suarez, surely Balotelli is just a logical evolution?
This is a gamble, it’s a low risk monetary gamble as £16 million is nothing in terms of football transfers, but it’s still a gamble. It will also signal the end of Fabio Borini’s career so effectively the outlay on Balotelli is around £3 million. That’s good business as there’s no question Balotelli is an upgrade on Borini. The gamble here isn’t monetary, it’s whether Rodgers can mould Balotelli to be the team mate he needs to be and whether Balotelli can keep himself out of the headlines for the wrong reasons. I can’t deny that Falcao was the one I was holding out hope for but Balotelli is a good player underneath all the extra-curricular activities. And when it’s all said and done, Liverpool have had a great record with Italian signin… oh.