Liverpool will reportedly look to sell forward Mario Balotelli this summer, with the Italy international said to have no future at the club under Jurgen Klopp.
That’s according to James Pearce of the Liverpool Echo, who claims that the striker has played his last game for the football club. In the piece, it’s suggested the Reds are hoping to make up a lot of the £16 million they paid to sign the forward in the summer of 2014, with sides from China and Turkey said to be interested.
Pearce writes that in players like Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke, Danny Ings, Divock Origi and Roberto Firmino, Klopp feels he has sufficient options up front. Additionally, he carries significant doubts as to whether the Italian has what it takes to play the high-intensity style he’s seeking to implement.
Balotelli is on loan at AC Milan, having been shipped out by ex-Reds boss Brendan Rodgers last summer. Although he’s much maligned, here’s a reminder of what he’s capable of:
If the Reds could somehow recoup £16 million for the 25-year-old, it’d be sensational business. After all, in the last one-and-a-half seasons, he’s scored just two goals in the league, shown little willingness to work hard for the team and displayed a lackadaisical attitude to his football, which riles supporters.
As Bleacher Report’s Adam Digby also noted recently, given the position he plays, his discipline on the pitch is pretty appalling, too:
2015/16— Adam Digby (@Adz77) February 15, 2016
Andrea Barzagli: Mins Played 1677 Fouls Made: 5 Yellow Cards: 1
Mario Balotelli: Mins Played 328 Fouls Made: 12 Yellow Cards: 3
It would be a shame to see Balotelli become the latest player to head to the Chinese Super League, because he’s still young and clearly talented. Yet, at this juncture, it’s tough to see where else he can turn. No elite club will be willing to take a chance on him for £16 million after recent failings, and the Italian doesn’t strike as the kind of player who’d make a step down to a more modest outfit.
For Liverpool, a sale makes sense. Rodgers clearly gambled on Balotelli when he drafted him in in 2014, and it’s looking increasingly unlikely he’ll ever live up the potential that was so prevalent during his early outings in Serie A.
While he’s a unique character and a box-office player, you suspect few at Anfield will lament his departure for too long.
Javier Mascherano Talks Liverpool, Premier League Return
Former Liverpool star Javier Mascherano has conceded he’d consider a move back to the Premier League one day but wouldn’t limit his options to his former employers.
The Argentina star became a fan favourite upon joining Liverpool from West Ham United, impressing in midfield with his tenacious tackling and overall defensive intensity. He moved to Barcelona in 2010 and has been converted to a central defender, but he hasn’t ruled out the prospect of coming back to England one day, per Sid Lowe of the Guardian:
My feelings for Liverpool don’t mean I’m tied to them. I have a lot of affection for them and always will have, but if in the future a Premier League team gave me a chance, you can’t say: "No, I’d only play for one team."
We’re professionals, this is our living. Whatever happens, my feelings for Liverpool won’t change.
Barcelona would be loath to let Mascherano go given how important he has become in this setup. However, as Lowe noted on Twitter, it’s clear he still holds an affinity for the Anfield club:
One other thing @Mascherano said. Suggested he'd coach Liverpool after Klopp. He smiled: "I think Carra and Stevie might get there first"— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) February 19, 2016
Would a Mascherano reunion be good for Liverpool?
There have been some small signs as of late that age is beginning to catch up with Mascherano at the base of this Blaugrana side, and you wonder how long the 31-year-old can continue playing such a demanding role for such a quality side. Even so, if he were to leave, there are plenty of Premier League clubs who would love to have him.
Liverpool are undoubtedly one of those clubs—his experience, defensive ability and leadership are all skills that would enrich the overwhelming majority of teams on the planet. However, with Barcelona still the dominant force in European football and Mascherano still a member of their starting XI, it seems as though any jaunt back to England is a while off yet.