Michael Owen criticises Mario Balotelli and believes he won't settle at Liverpool because 'leopards can't change their spots'

Owen claims that Liverpool's decision to spend £16m on the Italian could prove to be a poor piece of business

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The Independent Online

Michael Owen has criticised Liverpool’s decision to sign Mario Balotelli and claimed Brendan Rodgers must already be considering other options given that the striker simply doesn’t fit into his style of play.

Balotelli scored just his second goal for the club – a first since 17 September – in the 2-1 comeback victory over Swansea in the League Cup fourth round on Tuesday. The Italian is still seeking his first goal in the Premier League since returning to England after a spell with AC Milan, and it’s quite clear that Balotelli is struggling to settle in at Anfield despite his best efforts.

Brendan Rodgers has stuck by the £16m summer signing, refusing to drop him for another new arrival in the form of Rickie Lambert. The England international was handed a rare start against Swansea after Balotelli picked up a small knee concern in the warm-up, but the 24-year-old came off the bench to get the Reds back into the game.

While the rare sight of Balotelli slotting the ball into the back of the net pleased former Liverpool striker Owen, he admitted that he remains against signing the controversial striker and believes that Liverpool should have searched high and wide for a player who would have suited their style of play easier.

 

Writing in his column for The Telegraph, Owen said: “It was a much needed goal for Mario Balotelli on Tuesday, but I remain unconvinced he is the long-term answer for Liverpool as they continue to adapt post-Luis Suárez.

“Brendan Rodgers will probably never admit it publicly, but he must already be considering alternatives as he looks for strikers more suited to his style of play.

“I’m pleased for Balotelli that he scored, but there are many facets of his game that are going to have to radically change if he is to thrive for the rest of the season. I felt when he joined he was not a 'Liverpool type' player, and have not changed my mind.”

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Michael Owen broke onto the big stage with Liverpool

Owen went on to appreciate Balotelli’s talent, but added that “he is not in the bracket of world-class strikers” that the club need if they are to replace Luis Suarez.

The former Real Madrid, Newcastle, Manchester United and Stoke striker continued his onslaught of Balotelli. Although Rodgers has already admitted that he took a risk in signing him from Milan, Owen said that the risk goes far beyond his habit to land himself in trouble on and off the field, and could be a major error in turning out to be a poor piece of business from the Northern Irishman.

“With Balotelli, Liverpool not only took a risk in terms of whether the player would deliver on the pitch – and not get into any trouble off it – but also gambled that he would actually be able to make the transition tactically from what he is used to,” he said.

“My biggest criticism of him so far is he has not got himself into the penalty area enough, too often away from the goalmouth as moves develop.”

But Owen’s most damning verdict was his opinion that Balotelli is incapable of learning the tactics that Liverpool utilised to great effect last season, and he feels that despite still early in his career, Balotelli will not be a Liverpool great to remember.

He summed up the situation by saying: “I’m not so sure leopards can change their spots.”

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