Liverpool's bid to finally complete the signing of Mario Balotelli is inching closer toward completion. But the maverick Italy international isn't the only new striker reportedly on his way to Anfield.
The Merseyside club is still being linked with a lavish loan deal to bring Radamel Falcao to England's Premier League. One ageing forward who could be staying in the division is Samuel Eto'o, cut loose by Chelsea, but now a target for Kop boss Brendan Rodgers.
Here's the latest on Liverpool's potential moves for three big-name strikers, beginning with Balotelli:
Medical and Behaviour Clause Still Remain in Balotelli Deal
Hugely controversial ace Balotelli arrived at Liverpool's Melwood training complex for his medical late on Friday. But his fitness isn't what's concerning Liverpool.
The Reds have been doing all they can to safeguard the club against bad behaviour from a player noted more for his off-field antics than what he can do on it.
According to Liverpool Echo reporter James Pearce, the Mereseyside club have slashed Balotelli's wages and have been convinced the player will toe the line at Anfield:
Liverpool is prepared to complete the deal after receiving the assurances they wanted from the 24-year-old regarding his attitude and application.
Balotelli has agreed to a three-year contract which is heavily incentive based.
He will earn around £100,000 per week at Anfield – around half of what he pocketed in Serie A.
In a separate report, Pearce has detailed how behavioural infractions will cost Balotelli, under the terms of the contract he's been offered. In fact, Balotelli will lose up to £2 million annually if he steps out of line, per Chris Bascombe of The Telegraph.
Manager Brendan Rodgers was also keen to stress how no player will be able to challenge the club's stance on good conduct, per Pearce:
We have a fantastic environment here and a great culture. Over the past two years that was something which was very important for us to create and build here.
Nothing will ever shake that or provoke it in any way. It’s something I’ll always protect.
We have an extensive code of conduct for players and staff here. Every player we assess and look at and, of course, character is very important. No player would come into here if I felt they couldn’t work.
This speaks to the so-called "behaviour clause" inserted into Balotelli's deal, per Sky Sports. This is a tricky one to take on board. While it's a commendable effort by Liverpool, can an institution really successfully legislate behaviour?
Of course, the club has to at least try when considering Balotelli's dubious track record. However, it could be wishful thinking to hope he will change so easily based only on language in a contract.
What's clear is that things will be serene to start with. That's been Balotelli's pattern.
Ultimately, it boils down to how long Rodgers can keep the striker in line. When focused, the 24-year-old is an exceptional talent. He's powerful, pacy, technically assured and decisive when seizing upon a chance.
The player's medical will continue on Saturday and the whole deal should be resolved later this weekend, according to Pearce.
By the mid-point of this season, Rodgers will either look like a genius for rolling the dice on Balotelli or just another foolish manager duped by the talent into ignoring that famously disruptive personality.
Reds Offer £12 Million Just to Loan Falcao
If Liverpool want to add Falcao alongside Balotelli, even for a year, it's certainly going to cost them. In fact, it will cost them £12 million, according to French radio station RMC (h/t Daily Express writer Jamie Anderson):
According to French radio station RMC Liverpool chiefs have given the green-light for an audacious season-long loan deal worth £12m.
The offer would include an automatic purchase clause of £40m after the conclusion of the Colombian's loan.
It has also been reported that Falcao will accept a significant cut to his £230,000 weekly pay to make the switch away from domestic side Monaco, but until then, the Kop side will be forced to cover his astronomical wages.
If Rodgers can pull this deal off, he'll deserve to be heralded a genius. Falcao's arrival would be a major boost to Liverpool's bid to repeat last season's sustained and credible title challenge.
The 28-year-old suffered serious ACL damage last season but remains as deadly a finisher as there is in the modern game. He served notice that his comeback is right on track when he dominated for AS Monaco against Arsenal in the pre-season Emirates Cup tournament.
Falcao headed in the French side's only goal in a 1-0 win. He looked sharp and physically strong throughout.
The Colombian veteran is a natural finisher. He won't have lost that knack even after his injury. His brand of guile and deceptive physicality would make Falcao a quick success in the rugged environment of the Premier League.
Liverpool would face competition for his signature from Serie A's AC Milan, per Corriere dello Sport (h/t MailOnline reporter Hamish Mackay). However, for once, the Rossoneri are unable to offer the lure of UEFA Champions League football.
Armed with that bait, Rodgers should do all he can to convince Falcao to move to Anfield.
Conflicting Reports on Eto'o
Some see Eto'o as the perfect insurance if the deal for Balotelli collapses late on. In that bracket is Mike Whalley of ESPNFC.co.uk:
Liverpool are continuing to consider Samuel Eto'o as a back-up option if Mario Balotelli's move falls through, sources told ESPN FC.
Balotelli arrived in England on Friday after the Reds agreed a 16 million-pounds fee with AC Milan. The striker has accepted a significant pay cut to join Liverpool, but manager Brendan Rodgers wants to be absolutely sure that the deal is right for the club before committing to it.
For that reason, Rodgers has refused to close the door on a deal for Eto'o, sources said.
Whalley suggest Merseyside rival Everton are another interested party in the 33-year-old striker. However, Daily Mail writer Sami Mokbel believes a potential deal for Eto'o has progressed even further:
Sportsmail understands the former Chelsea striker had a Liverpool medical in Paris on Friday.
Eto’o, 33, who lives in the French capital, has verbally agreed a 12-month deal with Liverpool and is waiting for the green light to jet into Merseyside to seal his move.
Mokbel sounds fairly confident about his medical scoop. Yet Liverpool Echo reporter James Pearce has refuted any claims of genuine interest in Eto'o: "Reports suggesting Liverpool are also on the brink of signing Samuel Eto’o are wide of the mark. The Reds currently have no plans to follow up their initial interest in the 33-year-old free agent."
In this instance, consider it safer to trust the local paper. Not only do journalists based closer to the clubs they cover tend to have better sources, Liverpool giving up on Eto'o is easy to believe.
Balotell's arrival, plus the summer signing of Rickie Lambert, leaves the Reds well-stocked at striker, with Daniel Sturridge also available. Despite the potentially cost-effective nature of a move for Eto'o, it seems like an unnecessary signing at this stage.
Rodgers is apparently determined to compensate for the loss of star striker Luis Suarez. That's great news for Liverpool.
Suarez was the club's talisman last season and the true catalyst for the club's title push. Standing still after his departure would soon have translated into a few steps back in terms of league progress.
Now the focus will shift to whether or not Balotelli can behave himself long enough to deliver a Suarez-like impact on the pitch. Don't hold your breath.