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.
Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
Mario Balotelli: The funniest stories
When a youngster asked for an autograph outside Manchester City's training ground, Balotelli demanded to know why the boy was playing truant. After the child revealed he was being bullied, Balotelli drove the boy and his mother to the school in question so he could tackle the bully himself. He demanded to see the headmaster to make him aware of the issue and then mediated between the two boys to resolve the problem. A source said: 'Mario feels strongly about bullying.' Read the full story here.
After gambling at Manchester's 235 Casino, Balotelli walked away with winnings of £25,000. Feeling generous, he gave a homeless man 'with ginger dreadlocks and a beard' £1,000. Click here for the full story.
3/17 Parking fines
During his time in Manchester, Balotelli racked up £10,000 in parking fines and had his white Maserati impounded 27 times. Once he was pulled over by the police who wanted to enquire why he had £5,000 in cash on his front seat. Balotelli reorted: 'Because I am rich.' Click here for the full story.
Balotelli was 'bored', so threw darts at Manchester City youth team players to pass the time. Click here for the full story.
Balotelli explained prior to Euro 2012 how he would deal with racists: 'I will not accept racism at all. It's unacceptable. If someone throws a banana at me in the street, I will go to jail, because I will kill them.'
In a pre-season friendly for AC Milan, two fans ran onto the pitch to demand a selfie with the striker. Rather than shy away like most would in such a situation, Balotelli was more than happy to oblige.
Mario isn't a one trick pony. He can also iron, dance and read - all at the same time. Click here to watch.
For reasons never fully explained, Balotelli once sported a chicken hat. Thankfully it was a trend that never caught on.
Getty Images; Sky News
A bright spark at the body that co-ordinates firework safety material enlisted Balotelli soon after it was reported that some had been set off in the bathroom of his Manchester mansion.
10/17 Why always me?
The day those stories emerged, Balotelli scored for City in the Manchester derby, giving him the perfect opportunity to reveal *that* t-shirt.
11/17 The Queen
The Queen may be wary of Balotelli's return to England. During the World Cup, he said he wanted a kiss from Her Royal Highness should Italy do England a favour by beating Costa Rica. Thankfully for everyone involved, they didn't.
During a Europa League defeat to Dynamo Kiev, Balotelli had to be substituted in the 57th minute with his face swelling up. It emerged afterwards that the Italian is allergic to some types of grass.
During an Inter Milan press conference to announce the appointment of Andrea Stramaccioni as interim-manager, Balotelli interrupted proceedings to say hello. He was enjoying a day-off from Manchester City at the time. Click here to watch.
Balotelli's naked torso was to be one of the defining images of Euro 2012 - but he's not overly keen on celebrating goals. 'I don't celebrate goals, I'm just doing my job,' he infamously said. 'Does a postman celebrate when he delivered the mail?'
Balotelli has always appeared to be well loved by his team-mates. Perhaps it's the pranks he plays, like this one on Edin Dzeko. Click here to watch.
Balotelli was reportedly questioned by police in Italy when he was found taking a look around the grounds of a women's prison in Brescia. Apparently he simply fancied having a look. Click here for the full story.
Balotelli's relationship with former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini was a complicated one. It has been described as a father-and-son type relationship - only the sort where they fight each other during training.
EAMONN & JAMES CLARKE
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.”
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.”
- More about:
- Liverpool FC