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Mario Balotelli – The lost boy from Palermo

The Boot Room

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Rumours of Mario Balotelli being frozen out of the Liverpool squad have intensified in the last few days with the forward’s future looking bleak. Little has been made clear about his future with the Italian training separately from the main squad.

As a Liverpool fan I am equal parts torn between hysterical laughter and exasperation where Mario Balotelli is concerned. The internet is is positively  littered with ridiculous stories regarding the Italian. It really takes a lot of investigation to discover which of these stories hold any truth or which are mere fabrications of the truth. That being said, I highly doubt he threw darts at youth players during his time at Manchester City nor do I believe he drove his car through the wall of a women’s prison.

Since his first day on Merseyside he has been a marked man, being labelled as a “calculated risk” by manager Brendan Rodgers. Balotelli was brought to the club to fill the huge void left by Luis Suarez departing for Barcelona. Expectations of how the Italian had to perform in Suarez’ stead were, quite frankly, ridiculous and unfair. His predecessor scored 31 goals in his final season at the club.

While many are of the opinion that Rodgers has never really given him a fair chance, and this holds some merit, Balotelli is also to blame for his failure at Liverpool. The mischievous striker was brought to Anfield as a result of Liverpool’s famed transfer committee. The crux of the matter is that Rodgers wouldn’t have signed Balotelli if he had a choice. So, from the very beginning he was unwanted. Sensing a theme?

That is Rodgers’ and Liverpool’s side in the story but Mario, the lost boy from Palermo, needs to take some ownership of a disaster of a transfer. If I really think about it and disregard the natural optimism that I had when Balotelli signed, there was a sense of foreboding.

Brendan Rodgers isn’t the first manager to struggle with Mario Balotelli, and he won’t be the last…

I can fully understand Rodgers’ frustration and impatience with the 25-year old maverick. He seems to have no direction or ambition that is reflected in his actions and treatment of others. For instance, in training one day, Colin Pascoe, had huddled the group together and Balotelli found it appropriate to shout, “Hey, hey,” at an injured Jon Flanagan who was limping by. He was thus threatened with being sent to the changing rooms.

On the same day during a 10 vs 10 training game the Italian scored a brilliant goal from the halfway line against Brad Jones. The thing is he had scored in the wrong goal. He had spun on the half turn and fired at a hapless Jones. His reaction? He laughed hysterically in the center of the pitch by himself while onlookers and team-mates shook their heads in dismay. I am sure Suarez scored goals like that in training, but at the right end.

The irony is the Uruguayan, during his time at Liverpool, was actually guilty of a fair amount of genuinely  bad stuff. He pulled the middle finger at Fulham fans in 2011, he bit Branislav Ivanovic in 2013 not to mention the racial abuse incident regarding Patrice Evra – which I don’t believe a word of. What is ironic is that even though Suarez was found guilty of several incidents which made Liverpool look bad, he is loved and adored by Liverpool fans. Then you get Balotelli – who is vilified as a prankster and for being a poor footballer.

Mario Balotelli’s time on Merseyside is certainly limited and the only doubt that remains surrounding his future is when he will depart and for which greener pasture? It will be interesting to see who is mad enough to take on Balotelli’s personality defects in the hope that he is transformed into a goal-machine. The fact remains that he is a “calculated risk” and perhaps there is a manager somewhere who can balance the losses and profits where Balotelli is concerned.

Its a shame that Balotelli didn’t quite work out because before his arrival at Liverpool I quite liked him.I would really love it if Balotelli turned his career around and I looked like a fool for labeling him a ‘lost boy’ like in the Peter Pan. The truth is though, he doesn’t have a home and seems to be wandering aimlessly from club to club.

You can find the orignial article on Michael’s personal blog – Rousing the Kop

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Chelsea

Willian could hold key to Tottenham landing Anthony Martial

If Manchester United land the Brazilian it would undoubtedly improve Tottenham’s chances.

Jamie Watts

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Manchester United are reportedly preparing a £60 million bid to bring Chelsea winger Willian to Old Trafford this summer, according to reports from the Daily Mail, with manager Jose Mourinho having been linked with an approach for his former star for some time.

Chelsea were unwilling to sell at that time, but it is possible that Willian could be interested in a new challenge after apparently growing frustrated with life at Stamford Bridge, according to recent reports from Sky Sports. He managed a combined 25 goals and assists in 55 appearances in 2017/18, but only 20 of his 37 Premier League outings actually came as a starter.

Photo: Getty Images

Tottenham meanwhile, have become frustrated at United’s assertion that Anthony Martial will not be sold this summer (Sky Sports), after Mauricio Pochettino made the Frenchman his priority target last month (the Sun), as he looks to bolster the supply line to Harry Kane next term.

However, Martial’s revelation that he wants to leave the club could be vital for Spurs, as Mourinho has previously stated that he would never stop a player from moving if they really want the move and the money is right. And he’s backed up his words, selling two-time Chelsea Player of the Year Juan Mata to his current club in 2014.

Photo: Getty Images

The Red Devils are currently stacked in terms of depth for the left wing, with Marcus Rashford struggling to start games over January signing Alexis Sanchez, but wide-right is somewhat scarce and Willian would undoubtedly improve United’s balance for the better.

Although the manager would prefer the Frenchman went abroad, if he asked for the move to north London, Willian’s transfer to United would undoubtedly improve Pochettino’s chances of securing his key man. United will also be buoyed by their recent business with the west Londoners, having surprisingly secured the signing of Nemanja Matic from Stamford Bridge last summer.

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Everton

Gylfi Sigurdsson shows why Everton splashed £45m on his services

Everton fans will hope they see Sigurdsson in fine form next season.

Mathew Nash

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Iceland pulled off another shock at a major tournament, as they managed to hold out for a draw against Argentina. Alfred Finnbogason scored the equaliser after Sergio Aguero had given the Albiceleste the lead. Lionel Messi then saw a penalty saved as Iceland fully deserved a share of the spoils.

One man who was in sensational form throughout the game was Everton midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson. Only recently returned from a knee injury he was the beacon of quality that Iceland needed. When they needed a player to keep possession he was there and he was a constant thorn in the side of Argentina’s defensive generals.

It was a performance that will remind Everton fans just why they spent £45 million to bring him from Swansea City last summer. It also highlighted that, used correctly. The ‘Iceman’ could be Everton’s talisman.

(Photo by Lynne Cameron/Getty Images)

When Sigurdsson arrived last season he did so at the same time as two identical players. Davy Klaassen and Wayne Rooney also joined Everton last summer leaving them overbooked in that area of the field.

With Everton failing to bring in sufficient wide options, Sigurdsson also found himself playing wide left for much of his time at Goodison Park.

What is clear from the Iceland game is that Sigurdsson is best in the number 10 role, playing off of the front-man and hopefully next season that is where Everton will see him. With Cenk Tosun ahead of him, pace out wide and reliable generals behind him in midfield the Icelander will be free to roam and play his best football.

If Everton do that, then they will see more and more of the real Sigurdsson next season.

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Manchester United

Chicharito shows he’s capable of replacing Marko Arnautovic at West Ham in brilliant Mexico performance

The striker was unrecognisable from last season at West Ham.

Jamie Watts

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West Ham United striker Marko Arnautovic is still heavily linked with a move to Manchester United, although the club have attempted to deter interest by slapping a whopping £60 million price tag on the Austrian, according to the Daily Star.

Although the price is considerable, it’s conceivable United could match the fee, or something close and Manuel Pellegrini may have to begin lining up replacements, in case a switch to Old Trafford materialises. But the Chilean coach may very well have his man already on yesterday’s evidence, ironically, in the form of former United fan favourite, Chicharito.

Photo: Getty Images

Chicharito made a name for himself throughout his career for his impressive ability to improvise a finish in the penalty area, and his movement, which has led to countless poacher goals. However, his performance for Mexico yesterday could indicate a change of responsibilities for the striker in the future. And West Ham will be thrilled.

Against Germany, he did everything but put the ball away. Non-initiated viewers may have been shocked to find out that the striker went into the match one goal off a career tally of 50 for his country, as he plied for the 90 minutes as a forward linch-pin, connecting play in the final third for almost every counter-attack. His general touch, awareness of approaching defenders, vision to see runners and execution of passes were all sensational on the night.

Photo: Getty Images

It could be argued that his national pride conjured this new style. but now there can be no doubting he has the ability to play the Arnautovic-type role, and in emphatic fashion. And if Pellegrini can tap-into this style, he could already have the Austrian’s ready made replacement at the London Stadium.

Last term the 30-year-old struggled to break into the team on a regular basis under David Moyes, making 33 appearances in all competitions, bagging eight goals and an assist, but his contribution next year could be far more valuable.

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