Mario Balotelli may have as little as three months to save his Liverpool career. The club that paid £16m for his services in August would not be afraid to sell the striker in the January transfer window if there is no improvement in his form.
Brendan Rodgers is likely to recommend that he be given a full opportunity to prove his ability but, once the Liverpool manager has made up his mind about the man he brought off at half-time against Real Madrid, action is likely to be swift.
Rodgers spoke to Balotelli this morning and, though he was angered by the striker’s decision to swap shirts with Pepe in the tunnel during the interval, the player’s loss of form, with just one goal for Liverpool, will be the greater concern.
Although the decision to sign Balotelli from Milan was taken by the club’s transfer committee – made up of Rodgers, the managing director, Ian Ayre, the head of recruitment, Dave Fallows, and analyst Michael Edwards – the Liverpool manager knows that in public he will bear the full responsibility for the signing.
“I certainly will be responsible for every player that comes in,” he said. “You don’t need to look too far. It is something that is very clear with the owners. In the conversations we had with them, we were very clear what we were getting.
“This was a calculated risk to bring someone in and nothing has changed. I have not been overly surprised by many things. We took in a young player that had football potential. Were we going to get that focus and concentration that is required to play consistently at the top level? That remains to be seen.
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“I am the type of managr that gives people an opportunity and I understand the criticism that will come my way because of that. I accept that as being part of a manager. You take the praise if things go well and you take the responsibility if they don’t. Either way, I can deal with that.”
Rodgers is aware that Balotelli has contributed to managers such as Roberto Mancini at Manchester City and Cesare Prandelli with the Italian national side losing their jobs. It is a list he is determined not to join and, if Balotelli threatens to drag the team down, he will leave Anfield. Asked if Liverpool would look to sell Balotelli in January, Rodgers said: “I don’t want to go down that route. We brought him in to give him a chance and we will give him every chance. At the moment, he hasn’t scored the goals we would like. I will be working on improving not just him but all players. We will see in January what the team needs.”
Balotelli was allegedly involved in an altercation with a woman who was taking pictures of his Ferrari in Manchester this afternoon. Police are investigating.
Yet the problem is not that Balotelli is not training hard or is distracted by off-field activities. If he were, the solution might be easier to find.Those who have observed him in training have seen a player who is not broken by the challenge. He would not be destroyed by being dropped for Saturday’s game with Hull.
“He’s not uncontrollable,” said Rodgers. “He’s an individual talent who is working hard to fit into the team ethos. Will he? Only time will tell.”
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