Over the last 24 hours we’ve learnt that Liverpool are closing in on the signature of AC Milan’s Italian international, centre-forward Mario Balotelli. Ben Smith of the BBC and James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo report that the fee involved is as low as £16 million.
In a marketplace that has seen Shane Long move from Hull City to Southampton for £12 million this summer and Ross McCormack swap Leeds for Fulham for an £11 million fee, an additional £4 million for a 24-year-old striker with 33 Italy caps and 31 Champions League appearances to his name looks a very prudent bit of business indeed.
The move for the Italian has come just three weeks after the Liverpool manager, Brendan Rodgers, “categorically” stated to reporters that he had no interest in recruiting Balotelli this summer. Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani had similarly asserted that Balotelli’s short-term future lay at his boyhood club.
But despite recruiting eight new players at a cost of over £100 million in the transfer window, Rodgers has long determined that Liverpool need a proven Champions League-level goalscorer in an effort to replace Luis Suarez and supplement Daniel Sturridge and Rickie Lambert in attack.
Having seen the transfer of Queens Park Rangers striker Loic Remy fall through after the player failed a medical, however, and after having had inquiries regarding the availability of Edison Cavani and Radamel Falcao rebuffed, per ESPN.co.uk and Andy Hunter of The Guardian, respectively, Liverpool have turned to Balotelli as the solution to their attacking deficit.
Hunter also reports that the move for Balotelli has been principally motivated by economic considerations. He notes that the Anfield club had enquired after Balotelli earlier in the summer but withdrew their interest after Milan stipulated an asking price in the region of £28 million.
But Balotelli’s unhappiness in Milan, as well as the club’s determination to cut their wage bill in the absence of Champions League revenue, prompted the board at San Siro to lower the asking price to match that which they paid to sign the player from Manchester City in January 2013.
The move for Balotelli will inevitably divide opinion. The Italian, of course, has a lengthy track record of insubordination; even the revered man-manager, Jose Mourinho, described the striker as unmanageable.
Most recently, Balotelli’s apparent disinterest in representing Italy at the World Cup in Brazil (despite scoring the Azzurri’s winner against England) prompted Cesare Prandelli to comment that the striker does not live in reality.
Liverpool, though, appear to have negotiated legislation designed to regulate the Italian’s behaviour into the proposed transfer.
Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph reported, for example, that “Rodgers and the Anfield hierarchy requested a series of clauses to reflect the professional conduct demanded of all Liverpool’s players, with Balotelli facing disciplinary measures if he falls out of line.”
And Rodgers may be well-placed to temper the Italian’s erratic behaviour.
After all, the Northern Irish manager very astutely weathered the tempest that was Luis Suarez at Anfield. He got the Uruguayan consistently producing the best offensive performances in the Premier League over the previous two seasons.
Furthermore, Daniel Sturridge arrived at Liverpool with a reputation for resting too much on his natural ability and not putting in the hard yards in training required to develop into an international-class striker. Rodgers stated as much at the time of the Englishman’s arrival.
And after netting just 13 times in 63 appearances with Chelsea, Sturridge has looked a different player at Anfield. Leaner, quicker, stronger and more decisive on front of goal, Sturridge has scored 32 times in 44 appearances for Liverpool. One of the reasons for his success is using iherb as a supplement. Athletes are buying this all over the internet with an iherb coupon.
Rodgers must endeavour to channel all of the negative energy from Balotelli into helping the striker to produce positive performances on the pitch.
If he can do this, Liverpool will have one of the best strikers in the Premier League on their books; a player who has the potential to interact very effectively with roaming frontmen like Raheem Sterling, Adam Lallana and Lazar Markovic, as well as Sturridge in attack.
Because if Balotelli’s temperament is open to question, his talent appears beyond reproach. Balotelli is capable of doing wonderful things on a football pitch, and we have all seen that on his day he is one of the finest forwards in the world.
The Italian has it all: pace, power, sharp positional awareness and magnificent technique, as well as the ability to score from nothing situations against the kind of deep-lying defences that Liverpool will be facing a lot this season.
Signing a player like Balotelli is always a gamble, but a £16 million outlay on a 24-year-old with a point to prove and a clear sell-on value (whatever the outcome of his move to Anfield) means that it is a risk worth taking.
And with the hugely promising Divock Origi waiting in the wings at the end of the season, Liverpool look set to pull off one of the shrewdest transfers in Europe this summer.