After finally having Luis Suarez praised from prised his clutches, Brendan Rodgers would have been forgiven for taking a moment to lean back in his chair and breath a huge sigh of relief that he no longer has to justify the “winning mentality” of world football’s three time biting champion.
Fortunately for Liverpool fans, however, this was not the case.
No. The Premier League’s top young manager instead leant forward, scratched his head and boldly proclaimed: “i’m bored now”. He proceeds to reach into his pocket, seize his phone and order Ian Ayre to sign the next-best-nutjob, Mario Balotelli.
“What? Who? Oh not that little shithouse, I hate that gu- ONLY SIXTEEN MIL?! Oh, alright then”. – Every Liverpool fan, ever.
What I should of course mention is that my preceding insinuations are all based on comical invention, and it’s much more likely that Brendan actually just simply noticed that a 24 year old with a Premier League, Champions League, and Serie A medal collection paired with a maturing, almost 1-in-2 goal scoring record was available for about a quarter as much as Monaco will demand from Manchester United for an ageing Falcao come this time next year.
In truth, Balotelli’s ability and potential are a given. No one doubts he’ll score goals, the only question is whether he’ll do it with a firecracker up his arse or not. And again, no one doubts he could become one of the world’s best, they just doubt he can be bothered to shift out of second gear.
“Where’s my press conference?” – Balotelli, every time he enters a room.
Balotelli’s switch not only represents both great value and potential for Liverpool, but also the quality of the job that Brendan Rodgers has done at the club. Would Mario have joined two years ago? No chance. Would he have joined one year ago? Still no. I even have my doubts he’d have joined the club at the start of the window, prior to seeing the club add wisely for the squad. Rodgers’ shrewd and logical acquisitions bear weight that the Reds are capable of walking upon a higher path when paired with the right tactics, and that was more than enough to convince Balotelli it was the right place for him. And for crying out loud, why shouldn’t us Liverpool fans be happy? It’s been a while since we’ve signed anyone who’s been big enough to expect his own press conference on arrival. It’s again testament to Rodgers’ character that he told Balotelli the players of Liverpool Football Club actually do their talking on the pitch, rather than behind a desk in a semi-crowded hall.
Already the star studded forward looks a top addition. Great movement, good awareness and a budding bromance with Daniel Sturridge now complimenting a newly acquired… well, work rate, suggests Liverpool might well be onto a winner, no matter what Tony Evans mutters into his pint when everything’s become a little too hazey to host a live webchat to keep you up to date on what bullshit is currently pissing him off (which could be anything from Rodgers’ recklessly meddling with the traditional four four two, to the latest antics of Emre “strolling” Can).
Starting against Tottenham in the 3-0 demolition job, the quite-super Mario managed to set himself up well for what could be a good and long spell in Liverpool. He put himself in goal scoring positions numerous times, provided perfect dummy runs for his team mates (such as dropping in front of the Tottenham back line whilst Raheem Sterling darted around the back for the first goal, leaving the Spurs defence looking about as structured as a Mark Lawrenson narative), and gave enough evidence to the travelling Kop of being both a semi-workhorse and a total twat when he wants to be, roughly introducing Eric Dier to the floor because the young lad was starting to get on his nerves.
So why wouldn’t he kick on? He already knows the pace of the league, what’s expected of him and how to do his job. With the manager behind him – a man who’s shown the ability to work with all sorts of people, and develop attacking players well – there are no limits for Balotelli. Personally, i think it’s very important that Mario bonds with the squad to the extent that they are always encouraging, rather than critical of him. When the tide’s turning against him, the Italian needs an arm around the shoulder rather than a smack around the ear. If he can settle well, with other players accommodating him – which i’ve no doubt they will – then Mario could well become yet another top striker who goes down in folklore.
Daniel Sturridge has already turned his career around at Liverpool and gives his all for the side, and if he can create a similar understanding with Balotelli to that which he had with Suarez, then the two could become another superb partnership to threaten defences. Mario is also arguably* the greater lone striker out of the two fantastic forwards, meaning that even during the times when Sturridge suffers an injury (most likely at the hands of a Roy Hodgson fitness session), Liverpool should have no worries in the goals department.
So what will become of mad Mario? Will he go down a legend, or will he falter? A the slender cost of £16million (the same price as ‘dat guy’ Welbeck, may i add), Liverpool most likely see little ground for the deal to come off badly. Balotelli has shown his whole career he’s a goal scorer, so even if he doesn’t set the pitch alight (not literally, although don’t put it past him) he’ll still inevitably score goals. And if he does settle? He could well be one of the best. Add an increased proficiency in front of goal and consistency to already great physical attributes and flare, and that would easily round off a rough diamond.
All things aside, one thing is for certain with Balotelli: we most definitely don’t have another Aspas on our hands.
Will Mario Balotelli reward Brendan Rodgers’ trust? Can he become a star player for Liverpool? Have your say in the comment section below, or on Twitter @TBRFootball.