Mario Balotelli's potential move to Liverpool is shaping up to be one of the summer's shock transfers.
Brendan Rodgers previously stated he can "categorically" confirm the Italian striker "will not be at Liverpool" this season, per Fox Sports. Sky Sports now report this mindset has changed and that Balotelli is being lined up for a stint on Merseyside:
Sky Sources: Liverpool in talks to sign AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli. #SSNHQ— Sky Sports News HQ (@SkySportsNewsHQ) August 21, 2014
Considering the 24-year-old sustained a reputation for petulance and trouble during his spell with Manchester City—a factor the nation's press avidly reported—it is surprising to see a potential return to England on the horizon just 18 months after he left the Premier League.
Of course, Balotelli's history of controversial antics ensures quite a reaction on Twitter. Football writer Rich Laverty sums up the thoughts of many who believe the striker is a strange addition after the drama of Luis Suarez's Liverpool tenure:
Undoubtedly Balotelli is a talent but after Suarez I thought Liverpool may want someone who keeps out of the headlines...— Rich Laverty (@RichJLaverty) August 21, 2014
FourFourTwo writer Alex Chaffer suggests the footballing world should have seen this potential move coming:
Balotelli's presence in the Liverpool squad is likely to push new signing Rickie Lambert down the pecking order. The former Southampton striker failed to impress during pre-season and is yet to score for his boyhood club. Matthew Stanger of Football365 is one of many who questions whether he is already surplus to requirements at Anfield:
If Balotelli signs, Rickie Lambert might already have missed his only penalty for Liverpool.— Matthew Stanger (@MatthewStanger) August 21, 2014
While Balotelli may replace Lambert as Liverpool's secondary penalty taker (behind captain Steven Gerrard), Squawka noted the former Inter Milan striker is far more likely to test his luck from range:
Mario Balotelli had more shots in the league from outside the area last season (95) than Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney combined (83).— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 21, 2014
One such strike saw Balotelli score a screamer against Bologna last season (as seen below), but Jonathan Harding of DW Sports believes this moment of class also highlighted the player's weaknesses:
The Balotelli goal vs. Bologna is great but is also exactly why I'd be concerned if I was a #LFC fan. Lethargic, arrogant, individual.— Jonathan Harding (@JonBloggs66) August 21, 2014
OptaPaolo tweeted Balotelli's affinity for hitting the target from distance:
7&6 - Only 3 players scored more from outside the box (7) than Balotelli (6) in the top-5 Euro leagues last term. Key pic.twitter.com/oznV8J6NFf— OptaPaolo (@OptaPaolo) August 21, 2014
A reported fee of €20 million (approximately £16 million) is outlined by Sky Italia journalist Gianluca Di Marzio, who believes an "agreement in principle" has been made. This is certainly a cheap sum for someone of Balotelli's potential quality, but the price is likely offset by the consistently negative headlines surrounding his career.
Tom Adams of Eurosport puts Balotelli's alleged fee into context, while Miguel Delaney of ESPN FC also notes the striker's potential quality ensures this is a cheap deal:
Mario Balotelli will cost Liverpool £4m more than Southampton paid for Shane Long.— Tom Adams (@tomEurosport) August 21, 2014
£16m is nothing for a talent like Balotelli's. Well worth the 'risk' at that price.— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) August 21, 2014
Ali Tweedale, editor in chief at WhoScored.com, places Balotelli's previous Premier League achievements into perspective:
Some players who scored more PL goals than Balotelli during his time in England: Ba, Dempsey, Fletcher, Hernandez, Odemwingie, Torres, Bent— Ali Tweedale (@alitweedale) August 21, 2014
Would Mario Balotelli be a risky signing for Liverpool?
Balotelli is certainly a "love or hate" type of individual, but his talent cannot be questioned. If Brendan Rodgers can work miracles to stop the striker's ominous brushes with controversy, Liverpool fans will be able to look back on one of the summer's bargains.
If Balotelli struggles with discipline, like he has throughout his career, the Northern Irishman is unlikely to keep him at the club for long. Rodgers' team is built around hard work, commitment and energy, three attributes Balotelli has rarely shown.
That said, all will be overlooked if he comes close to netting 31 Premier League goals like a certain Mr. Suarez managed last season.