Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Latest Transfer Details, Reaction, More

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Mario Balotelli to Liverpool: Latest Transfer Details, Reaction, More
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Mario Balotelli is heading to Liverpool in arguably the shock deal of the summer after they reached an agreement with AC Milan for the polarising but talented striker.

Balotelli signed a deal to complete the move, as announced by Liverpool's official feed on Monday:

Liverpool also confirmed that Balotelli will be in attendance for the club's match against Manchester City:

Balotelli also spoke about the move in a club release:

I'm very happy. We've been talking about coming here and now I'm happy to be here.

Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England and the football is very good here.

It's a great team with young players, and that's why I came here.

Manager Brendan Rodgers also spoke about the deal on the club website:

This transfer represents outstanding value for the club and I think we have done a really smart piece of business here.

There is no doubting Mario's ability; he is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level.

The Italy international will hope to fill the giant hole left by Luis Suarez's departure to Barcelona. He's not only providing top-quality support to Daniel Sturridge, but he's also bringing his own fair share of unpredictability to the Liverpool setup.

Rodgers has been chasing a striker all summer. He was previously linked to Monaco forward Radamel Falcao, per Jamie Anderson of the Express. However, the Liverpool boss has settled on Balotelli, who brings Premier League and Champions League experience to the Merseyside club.

The deal will divide an opinion, given Balotelli's chequered history, but former Liverpool stalwart Jamie Carragher questions whether the Italian will even get in the Reds' starting XI:

Balotelli leaves Milan having spent just two seasons with the Rossoneri. At 24, he's already completed four different stops in his career, none of them lasting longer than three years. His skill set is undeniable, but his discipline is often called into question.

Although his name was brought up frequently throughout the summer, his move still comes as a surprise. Oliver Todd of the Daily Mail passed along comments from AC Milan CEO Adriano Galliani, who had been confident the striker would stay.

"Balotelli has never asked to be sold," he said. "There's a 99.9% chance of him staying, but you never know what will happen."

So despite there being less than a one percent chance of a move, he's gone. Now the question is whether this latest transfer will allow Balotelli to reach his peak.

Balotelli scored 30 goals in 54 appearances across all competitions for Milan. Given the lack of genuine top-quality strikers around Europe, numbers like that in one of the top leagues is always going to attract interest. And it only scratches the surface of the Italian international's potential.

Suarez broke the 30-goal barrier in a single season for Liverpool last year, and the expectation will be on Balotelli to fill those boots.

Rodgers has invested heavily across his squad to improve the depth of his defence and midfield, but it was clear against Southampton that Liverpool lacked an edge at the top of the field with only Sturridge in their attack. 

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Getting Balotelli to cut down on his off-field antics and focus more on football would yield even greater results for the player and prove Rodgers a master man-manager. Unfortunately, every club the striker has played for has understood that plan, and nobody has been able to fully implement it.

Alas, the intrigue remains with the hope that everything finally clicks and he becomes one of the most dominant strikers in world football.

One thing that must happen in order for Balotelli to reach that level is improved efficiency. WhoScored noted a worrisome stat about his finishing rate last campaign:

It's a prototypical high-risk, high-reward move.

If Balotelli finds a comfort zone and develops into the elite striker he's always flashed the skill set to become, it will be an outstanding addition. If not, history will repeat itself and he will likely spend a couple years with the club before moving on.

At this stage, it's hard to remain overly confident about Balotelli's ability to stay mentally engaged over the course of the season. However, Rodgers got the best out of Suarez both on and off the pitch last season—his World Cup bite was under Uruguay's watch—and the Liverpool boss will hope to achieve the same with Balotelli.

The situation will definitely be one worth watching, at the very least.

 

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