Brendan Rodgers Is Key to Making Mario Balotelli Liverpool Transfer a Success

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistAugust 21, 2014

AP Images

Luis Suarez departed Liverpool in this summer's transfer market, and thus perhaps the most brilliant, yet inherently flawed and contentious, personality in the country left the Premier League.

So, naturally, Liverpool are apparently set to turn to Mario Balotelli to fill the crazy—sorry, the striking—void at the club, report BBC Sport.

Enough of the "Mad Mario" talk, though. Despite all the fireworks, darts and bib antics, what has the AC Milan striker done of that nature in the past couple of years? Not much, is what, and in any case, moral outrage aside, it's completely irrelevant.

It's all about the football with regards to whether he's a good acquisition for Liverpool or not, and there are questions that still need answering.

Tactical Twos

Liverpool need another striker; that much is clear. Daniel Sturridge has been incredible for the Reds, but simply will not stay fit all season long. Buying someone like Balotelli, who can play wider as well as centrally, gives manager Brendan Rodgers the option of playing both starting strikers together in a diamond, but also in a 4-3-3, an oft-used system.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - MARCH 30:  Liverpool Manager Brendan Rodgers speaks to Daniel Sturridge during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on March 30, 2014 in Liverpool, England.  (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty
Alex Livesey/Getty Images
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It also keeps a central, young, technical No. 9 in place regardless of which one starts, with Rickie Lambert an alternative option who can drop deep, be a physical presence, who links up play and likely impacts from the bench at times.

Tactics-wise, it's an interesting but well-fitting choice from the Reds to aim for the Milan man.


This is the biggest question of all. Not just what are Balotelli's main strengths...but how often does he showcase them?

MILAN, ITALY - MAY 04:  Hernanes of FC Inter Milan and Mario Balotelli of AC Milan (R) compete for the ball during the Serie A match between AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano at Stadio Giuseppe Meazza on May 4, 2014 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

And, most pertinently, put all together, what kind of forward do Liverpool get with that?

He has pace, but isn't lightning quick. He is strong, though seems unable to use that to his own benefit often enough to consistently batter defences about in a Didier Drogba-like fashion. He is technically impressive, but how often does Balotelli dribble past defenders with skill or movement? For the record, he completed 57 take-ons last season, from 113 attempts.

How often do we see Balotelli find space between full-back and centre-back and drive infield at goal, beating a man to get a shot away or a pass? This will be a key piece of movement, for example, in the Reds' ideal attacking emphasis of quick passing and movement, selfless running and finding an end product.

FLORENCE, ITALY - MARCH 26: Gonzalo Rodriguez (R) and Massimo Ambrosini of ACF Fiorentina fights for the ball with Mario Balotelli (C) of AC Milan during the serie A match between ACF Fiorentina and AC Milan at Stadio Artemio Franchi on March 26, 2014 in
Gabriele Maltinti/Getty Images

Daniel Sturridge does it. Raheem Sterling does it. Luis Suarez did it. Can Balotelli? Consistently? Along with delivering everything else required?

City in 11-12. Playing time on a title winner. Shooting% is okay, but dat scoring and shot vol. GOOD BALOTELLI!

— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 21, 2014

Still at City, Things have gone all wrong for Super Mario. The Edward Scissorhands shape for CFs. BAD BALOTELLI!!

— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 21, 2014

Last season, back in Milan, playing for a lame duck manager. This is okay, but he has so much more talent.

— Ted Knutson (@mixedknuts) August 21, 2014

Keyword: Consistency

There is very little room or requirement for a player in the Reds' team who allows the game to pass him by, not through laziness or lack of form or anything else associated with Balotelli at times, but simply because they don't have the constant drive, the will to win, the speed of mind and the "let's go, then go again, then go again" mentality which Rodgers has instilled in the team over the past two years.

Balotelli is revered in media columns as a tremendously talented player who, depending on which viewpoint you prefer, needs either an arm around the shoulders, a perfectionist coach or a skilled bunch of team-mates around him to hit the heights he's capable of.

MILAN, ITALY - FEBRUARY 14:  Mario Balotelli of AC Milan (C) celebrates scoring the first goal during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Bologna FC at San Siro Stadium on February 14, 2014 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Claudio Villa/Getty Images)
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Liverpool are aiming for another top-three spot, titles, success in cup competitions. They need a forward who can contribute every game, in a positive manner, if they are to achieve those ambitions.

Balotelli will have that enormous expectancy on him should he arrive through Melwood's gates and become the latest addition to the Liverpool team.

Summer of Strikers

The quoted prices are tending to be somewhere around the £16 million, a little shy of what Milan paid for the forward 18 months ago.

It's a big fee, but in terms of forwards who have moved or might yet move this summer, it's actually pretty cheap. In those terms, the "gamble" of going for him makes sense to some. But, "cheap" or not, it's still a tremendous waste of resources to sign any player who won't fit, who can't deliver what is required or who will negatively impact a team. That's not aimed at Balotelli, that's a fact of footballing life.

And £16m for Balotelli would be a fantastic bit of business, if we shift Borini for £14m. Huge upgrade at minimum cost.

— Kevin (@emptyMINDZ) August 21, 2014

Ross McCormack to Fulham - £11M Shane Long to Southampton - £12M Mario Balotelli to Liverpool - £16M

— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) August 21, 2014

The Key to it All

Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool manager.

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 27: Liverpool Coach Brendan Rodgers before the start of the match against the Olympiacos FC in the International Champions Cup 2014 on July 27, 2014 at Soldier Field in Chicago, Illinois.  (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
David Banks/Getty Images

Some can question the Reds defence last season, some might wonder about defensive acquisitions or lineup selections, but Rodgers has a tremendously proven track record with developing young, attacking players in terms of both technique and tactical competency.

Truth be told, Rodgers might be exactly the type of coach Balotelli needs, if he is the type of player who will listen, take on board and act out accordingly on the pitch. However, Roberto Mancini was also once believed to be "the type" that Balotelli needed. 

Mario Balotelli was involved in a training ground bust-up with Man City manager Roberto Mancini. (3rd January, 2013)

— Football Memories (@Footy__Memories) August 21, 2014

Rodgers will back his players through ineffective performances. He'll find a role to get the best out of them. He'll also not hesitate to level with them and demand nothing but the utmost from them in work-rate and a determination to improve.

The words hunger, desire and ambition are often used by the boss in relation to his squad of players. He will have to coax those traits out of Balotelli if he is to be a success at Anfield.