Liverpool

Mario Balotelli Deal Would Be Curious Move by Liverpool and Brendan Rodgers

Italy's Mario Balotelli reacts after missing a chance during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Costa Rica at the Arena Pernambuco in Recife, Brazil, Friday, June 20, 2014.  (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)
Frank Augstein/Associated Press
Peter GalindoFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

Mario Balotelli is one of the most controversial figures in football. Production aside, the Italian international has been a headache at every club he's been with since his Inter days.

It seems as if he's going to add another team to that list.

Liverpool and AC Milan have reportedly agreed on a deal to send Balotelli, 24, to Anfield, per the BBC's Ben Smith. The fee is supposedly around £16 million, which is about £3 million below what the Rossoneri spent in January 2013 to bring the forward back to Italy.

This move comes at a tumultuous time for Balotelli. He had an abysmal World Cup, and his poor attitude in Brazil, as reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Football Italia and Yahoo UK), might have had something to do with that.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said in the beginning of the month that he wanted a striker, even claiming that the potentially new forward wouldn't be Balotelli, per ESPN UK.

It's crucial for us [to sign a striker]. ...

I can categorically tell you Balotelli will not be at Liverpool. In my last press conference I was asked a question about Balotelli and I talked about what a talent he was and what an excellent player he was. And the next day it was wrote as if we were signing him, which doesn't surprise me.

I just gave my perception of him as a player. It shouldn't be transmitted in to us signing the player. ...

We still have a few bits and pieces we would like to do to solidify the group, but there's no names or definite signings yet.

It looks like Rodgers might have spoken prematurely, or he was trying to calm the media frenzy following his praise for Balotelli.

On the surface, the move looks like a low risk. Considering Shane Long was purchased for £12 million, signing Balotelli looks like a stroke of genius from the Reds board.

Balotelli scored 30 goals in 54 appearances in all competitions for AC Milan. It's a very solid return, but upon further examination, 10 of the Italian's tallies were penalties, per Transfermarkt.com.

Those 20 other goals are a decent showing of Balotelli's prowess in the box, but he was ineffective in Champions League matches. That's a competition that Liverpool will be relying on him to deliver in sticky situations.

Balotelli has usually been disappointing in the Champions League and other major competitions.
Balotelli has usually been disappointing in the Champions League and other major competitions.Paul White/Associated Press

Balotelli has scored just seven goals in 29 appearances in the Champions League in his career, according to Transfermarkt. If Liverpool is expecting the big-game player like everyone saw at Euro 2012, then supporters will probably be disappointed.

Rodgers has been seen as the "key" to success for Balotelli. Luis Suarez ended up staying with Liverpool last season, despite the Uruguayan's requests to leave, and signed a historic contract shortly thereafter thanks in large part to the coach.

However, despite the many controversies Suarez has started, he was always a tireless, talented player who was usually worth all of the baggage. 

Balotelli isn't the hardest working player on the pitch.
Balotelli isn't the hardest working player on the pitch.Luca Bruno/Associated Press

Balotelli is not that player. Fans have been waiting for many years to see if the enigmatic striker will finally mature. At 24, it hasn't happened yet. Getting married might change things, but he'll probably still be the same rambunctious character.

The calm and collective manager hasn't been able to help Balotelli. Only newly appointed Italian national team coach Antonio Conte can change Mario's habits at this point.

If Balotelli was playing just in behind a centre-forward, then Liverpool could see great results. If Daniel Sturridge plays in front, then that tandem could work. If Rodgers uses the Italian as the leading man in attack, then expect a lot of frustration, pouting and wasted money.

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