Discussing Liverpool and Mario Balotelli - and why it could be anything 0

As surely everyone is now aware, Liverpool are in negotiations with AC Milan to bring Mario Balotelli back to England for a reported £16m.

There are two perspectives to this: One, what the player is as a pure footballer and, two, what he represents as a person.

Balotelli the athlete is a phenomenon; a ludicrously gifted forward who can do almost anything he wants on the pitch.  Brendan Rodgers’ reasoning here is fairly clear: the Italian is the outright centre-forward that this squad currently lacks and his addition would both take the goal-scoring strain off Daniel Sturridge and allow Liverpool to play with a variation to their current shape.

It’s obviously not that simple, though, because Balotelli is also one of the most antagonistic characters in the modern game and he is the polar-opposite to the average personality at Liverpool.  Most of Rodgers’ first-team have bought into the collective interest under their young manager, but Mario Balotelli will always prioritise Mario Balotelli above everything and everybody.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that he won’t be successful at Anfield, though, just that he will represent the biggest man-management challenge Rodgers has faced in his short career.  Many, many people have said this before, but if a team could somehow harness Balotelli and extract only his good qualities, they would have a world-beater in their possession.

Rodgers is as good a candidate as any to do just that, but until the penny really drops with Balotelli and he understands that the game is not always about self-glorification, he will remain a great player only in theory.

Was he that successful at Manchester City?  No, but it’s worth remembering the situation he was in at Eastlands.  He was really a player who operated on the periphery of Roberto Mancini’s squad and he was frequently used to fill holes in City’s attacking structure and never really enjoyed a sustained opportunity as a proper centre-forward.  Balotelli is someone who has to be catered to and he’s never going to be a player who accepts compromise or enthusiastically plays a position to which he’s not suited.

His previous spell in England may be a marker as his capabilities within this division, but his personal circumstances are likely to be very different at Liverpool and so predicting his success at one club on the basis of his past at the other is fairly futile.

£16m sounds like a bargain, but there’s really no way of pre-judging this transfer - it could be anything, there are dozens of variables involved here.

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