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Why Mario has to go - now (ESPN article)

by Dave Usher for ESPN


If they haven't already, then Liverpool need to make some calls over the next few days to see if there are any takers out there for Mario Balotelli. It hasn't worked out for the Italian at Anfield (and it's clearly not going to) but as long as he's still a part of the squad, the temptation to select him on the basis that "this might be his day" will always be there. That temptation needs to be removed, even if the only solution is to send him on loan somewhere.


Brendan Rodgers clearly does not fancy Balotelli at all yet he's still put him on the field in numerous big games this season, presumably more in hope than expectation. Everyone has been waiting for "Super Mario" to suddenly explode into action and produce a moment of brilliance or a crucial, match winning goal and despite his obvious misgivings, even Rodgers is occasionally falling into that trap. At what point do you say enough is enough, and that there's not really anything "Super" about Mario at all?


So many things Rodgers said both before and after signing Balotelli point to the lack of faith he has in the striker and in recent weeks he's overlooked him on numerous occasions in favour of Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert, neither of whom are the answer, either. The problem with Balotelli is that unlike other players (Borini for example), he possesses enough raw talent to make it difficult for managers to completely give up on him regardless of how many poor performances he produces. Temptation certainly got the better of Rodgers on Tuesday night and the outcome was sadly predictable.


Balotelli isn't the reason Liverpool lost to Chelsea -- poor finishing over the two legs explains that one -- but his introduction didn't help in any way either. In fact his presence hindered Liverpool, as it has done all season. The team plays better without him. It's been there for all to see in recent weeks as in his absence the Reds have finally begun to resemble something similar to the side they were last season. He may be a talented player but he is not a Liverpool player.


Yet with the game on the line against Chelsea, Rodgers (perhaps against his better judgement) sent on Balotelli instead of the more deserving and in-form Adam Lallana. Rodgers fell into the "this could be Mario's day" trap again and as long as Balotelli remains at the club that trap is always going to be there.


Unsurprisingly, it wasn't Mario's day at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night. It could have been of course; the headlines were just waiting to be written when Raheem Sterling cut the ball back to him in a central position 18 yards from goal but he blasted his shot high over the bar. That was his moment. He blew it.


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