Mario Balotelli: 5 Reasons Why He Won't Fit in at Liverpool
You’ve probably read the stats and you may have watched the videos, but sometimes the information available online can paint an unreliable picture of a sportsman.
"Unreliable" being an apt word, come to think of it, as the subject of this article is one Mario Balotelli, whose return to the Premier League with Liverpool was confirmed on Monday.
Twitter went in to meltdown on Thursday when reports of a £16m fee agreed between the Reds and AC Milan first surfaced. Cue the rise in videos and statistical statements on social networks, reminding us of the Italian’s supposed genius.
Since making his league debut for Milan in 2013, no player has scored more Serie A goals than Mario Balotelli (26). pic.twitter.com/Wy96CbUPHx— Squawka Football (@Squawka) August 21, 2014
132 - Balotelli has a lower mins / goal ratio for A.C. Milan in Serie A (132) than Sturridge (136) or Suarez (138) in the PL. Suitor?— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) August 21, 2014
% Goals scored vs top-7: Balotelli - 28.57 Suarez - 19.35 Reus - 31.25 Sanchez - 21.05 Sturridge - 26.09 Remy - 21.43 Position: 2nd (1/3)— Tim Johnston (@timjohnston_89) August 20, 2014
But it can be argued that the digital generation rely too heavily on stats to form their opinion. After all, most have been starved of the opportunity to witness first-hand the actual ability of high-profile athletes, due to extortionate ticket prices in this crazy age.
Admittedly, Balotelli’s records make impressive reading. Yet when common sense is applied, there’s ample reason to believe he will not be the answer Liverpool were looking for. Scroll through for five reasons why.
1) Balotelli’s Insufficient Work-Rate Will Frustrate the Fans
Given the often unheralded work-rate of the likes of Martin Skrtel, Jordan Henderson, Joe Allen and Raheem Sterling, it’s clear Brendan Rodgers has installed an ethos of "everything we do, we do it for the good of the team." That is not how Mario operates.
At Anfield, it’s important to get the fans on your side right from the off, just ask either Fabio Borini or Iago Aspas, if you can find them. Granted, Balotelli has more ability than those two combined, but both got off on the wrong foot and have yet to recover.
If you get off to a bad start at Anfield, it’s a long way back. And, typically, the players who come barging in with high work-rates, such as Dirk Kuyt, are generally better received, even if they’re not the most talented. Striking up a rapport with the fans is key to longevity at Liverpool, and the Kop doesn't take kindly to idle figures.
But it won’t be long before Kopites are witnessing the ugly, workshy side to Balotelli’s game. You can bet your bottom dollar that the Italian will be relishing the prospect of tucking away plenty of chances in this exciting Liverpool team. However, when the going gets tough at the other end, he’ll be keeping himself to himself.
2) Balotelli’s Off-Field Persona Is Not in Line with the Club’s Standards
It’s likely that Rodgers and club psychiatrist Dr Steve Peters have plans to tame the wild child in Balotelli, but until progress with this is evident, it’s reasonable to assume that trouble is just around the corner.
Comparisons have already been made with former Red Luis Suarez, the flawed genius who has continually enraged the sport with a series of offences against fellow professionals. That said, Suarez is generally well-liked off the field and has never proved a disruptive influence in the dressing room, unlike Balotelli.
A breakdown of each man’s controversies is unnecessary here, but although Suarez’s have been on a much grander scale, they've been less frequent and have almost exclusively taken place on the pitch.
Liverpool players are expected to be model professionals off the pitch as much as on it, but Suarez was given chance after chance because of his unique talent. Balotelli won’t get as many bites of the cherry and it won’t help that the relentless British media will be targeting him in order to sell newspapers from the word go.
Although Balotelli's no angel on the field of play (47 yellow and 5 red cards in 158 career appearances), the club takes an even stronger stance when representatives put a foot wrong off the pitch, as Charles Itandje discovered.
3) He’ll Have to Oust the Brilliant Daniel Sturridge to Get Game Time
There are times when a player is so talented, it’s worth fixing what isn't broken in order to fit them into the side. Real Madrid do it almost every summer, but is Balotelli really that good?
After taking the title race to the final day of the season last year using his favoured 4-2-3-1 formation, Brendan Rodgers would be unwise to abolish this scintillating set-up in order to pair Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge side-by-side.
Equally, it would be a waste of talent to stick either striker out wide with one of the two spearheading the attack, meaning Balotelli may have to fight for the sole striker spot directly with his new team-mate.
Since Balotelli left the Premier League, Sturridge has realised his potential and is quite rightly labelled the main man around Melwood, now Suarez has left. At present, Sturridge is arguably better than Balotelli in every department, so the Italian may be forced to bide his time on the bench.
4) He’s Too Inconsistent to Hold Down a Starting Berth at Liverpool
Until Brendan Rodgers’ second season at the club, inconsistency was Liverpool’s biggest problem and had been since the dawn of the Premier League era. The arrivals of Daniel Sturridge and Philippe Coutinho in the January transfer window of his first season sparked the beginning of the end of that characteristic.
By Christmas the following season, Liverpool had become a winning machine and topped the table before losing unfortunately at Manchester City on Boxing Day. Of course, they then fell just short of the title in May, but put together a winning streak that at one stage seemed unstoppable.
Consistency was the key, and will be again this season if Liverpool are to compete. Prolific might be one word to describe Balotelli, but consistent certainly is not. And there is a difference, for it’s possible to be a prolific goalscorer but an inconsistent performer.
Take the World Cup, for example. Balotelli reminded the English of his capabilities with a display worthy of a man of the match award as Italy beat Roy Hodgson’s side 2-1 in their tournament opener.
But the striker failed to carry anywhere near that kind of form into Italy’s next two games. He received a yellow card against both Costa Rica and Uruguay, and was hauled off at half-time against the latter as the Azzurri limped out of the competition just as tamely as the Three Lions.
5) No Italian Has Ever Made the Grade at Anfield
Balotelli will become the fifth Italian to play for Liverpool, but none of his compatriots have ever been able to cut it at the club.
Rafa Benitez is responsible for signing three of the four previous Italians to turn out for Liverpool, the first of which was a goalkeeper by the name of Daniele Padelli, who joined on loan from Sampdoria in 2007.
Padelli’s sole appearance was riddled with errors as Liverpool drew 2-2 at home with Charlton on the last day of the 2006-07 Premier League season. He was ruthlessly sent back to his parent club having failed to make an impression.
Andrea Dossena was the next to arrive and, save for brief highlights in scoring against Manchester United and Real Madrid, the left-back never looked good enough to solve a troublesome position for Liverpool.
After that, Alberto Aquilani arrived from Roma with a hefty price tag and a worrying medical history. Fans were right to be concerned, as he failed to stay fit or adapt to the Premier League.
Fabio Borini is the other Italian to have pulled on the famous red shirt, but after arriving from Roma for £11m, he was given just one season to prove himself before being shipped out on loan to Sunderland, where he enjoyed a productive season last term.
Still on the books at Anfield, some believe Borini can still do a job, although the majority accept the team have since moved up a gear too high for the 23-year-old.