Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Risky business to think Balotelli can replace Luis Suarez
The fiery Italian can be even more trouble than departed Uruguayan yet does not guarantee the same amount of success on the pitch
Thursday 21 August 2014
Liverpool have agreed to pay Milan £16m to bring the Italian striker back to the Premier League and are holding talks with his agent Mino Raiola over personal terms.
Unfortunately for Liverpool the comparisons with Suarez are a little forced – Balotelli may be just as prone to the spectacular and the unpredictable but he is unlikely to score 30 goals a season – he managed only 30 in two-and-a-half years at City. He will also have to make major changes to his style of play if he is to lead Liverpool’s high-energy pressing game as Suarez did; and neither does he lead the family-orientated life of suburban sobriety away from the pitch as the Uruguayan did.
Neither does he appear to have been Liverpool’s first choice to replace Suarez. If Alexis Sanchez had chosen Merseyside over London; or if Loïc Rémy’s transfer had gone through, Liverpool and Milan would never have reached this point.
The consolation for the club’s supporters is that it will not be dull and at £16m, even if they get just a couple of seasons of excitement from him before 19-year-old Belgian international Divock Origi returns from his loan spell back at Lille and matures into the top striker Brendan Rodgers believes he can become, then it will have been worth it.
If a £90,000-a-week five-year contract is agreed in time and the 24-year-old is registered before midday on Friday he could make his debut against Manchester City on Monday. The opponents may be an early reminder of the reasons he gave for wanting to leave the country in 2013.
When Balotelli moved to Milan in January of that year, after two-and-a-half years at Manchester City, he was asked what it was he didn’t like about England: “The press, the weather, the food, the way you drive. That’s it,” was his reply (crashing his Audi R8 three weeks after arriving in Manchester might have put him off English roads). They, like the other three gripes, will not have changed much since he has been away.
Video: The latest transfer news
But in that grumpy presentation he also praised the atmosphere and quality of what he referred to several times as the “amazing” Premier League, and Rodgers will be able to tap into that, getting him right for big matches where he tended not to let Manchester City down.
He also represents a more viable investment than Samuel Eto’o who might have been perfect for Liverpool’s style of play five years ago when Barcelona sold him to appease Pep Guardiola, but not at his current age.
Eto’o is another potentially difficult player to manage and his fall-outs have sometimes involved team-mates. Balotelli’s don’t usually cause too much dressing room discord.
It could still be a bumpy ride, however, especially if the form of some of the other Liverpool players signed in their £101m summer spending spree outperform him and limit his first team involvement – an idle Balotelli is twice as dangerous as a motivated regularly-starting one.
Luis Suarez in action during his Barcelona debut this week At Milan he seemed to have found a coach who could get the best out of him in Clarence Seedorf. He scored the late penalty against Verona that insured Seedorf won his first match in charge in January 2014; he even dedicated the goal to his new manager.
A bond was emerging and the Dutch coach defended his striker against criticism when he cried on the bench after being taken off in a 3-1 defeat to Napoli a month later, understood to be upset after being confirmed as the father of the child of a former girlfriend. But Seedorf was out of a job by June. Going the same way as the last coach to put his faith in Balotelli, Roberto Mancini.
Rodgers should at least have enough alternative attacking options to not need to make the same mistake. And if against the odds he makes a long-term success of the transfer, it will go down as one of his greatest coaching triumphs.
Latest in Sport
Manchester United can learn lessons from the transfer template of rivals Manchester City
Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea top the list of the Premier League's most expensive squads
Harry Kane: Tottenham striker confident of rediscovering goal-scoring form after chat with Alan Shearer
Cyprus vs Wales match report: Gareth Bale's bullet header has Welsh on brink of Euro 2016
Bayern Munich 'training camp' to supply refugees with food, footballs and German lessons
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 200,000 back our campaign
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up