A few weeks ago after Brendan Rodgers complimented Mario Balotelli and what seemed to be lazy links to the player were made, I said I wouldn’t touch him with a barge pole and that I’d let another club deal with him. Well, it looks like the club have ignored my suggestion – how dare they!
Don’t get me wrong, the off-field ‘incidents’ that surround Balotelli don’t concern me in the least. If he wants to set fireworks off in his house, well that’s his choice. If he wants to drive around in a camouflage car with a bag full of cash, sound. If, rather than watch football, he wants to do card tricks he’s learned by inviting a magician around to his house, good luck to him. None of this stuff really matters. In fact, I think it’s a positive. In a world of media-trained robots who are scared to have a bit of personality, it’s actually a breath of fresh air to see a young man doing whatever he feels like doing.
My issue with Mario is on the field. He’s obviously a very talented footballer; he’s got all the physical and technical skills needed to be a great player, but question marks remain about whether or not he has what it takes mentally to be a success.
In his time at Manchester City, moments of brilliance were separated by moments of petulance and what some – myself included – saw as laziness, and that is a concern for me.
To be fair to Mario – not that he’d give a toss about what I think! – he seems to have had less ‘incidents’ at Milan. I’m not a regular Serie A watcher in truth, in fact the only Italian products that I regularly consume are pizzas and pastas, so it’s difficult for me to judge whether the moments of perceived laziness have faded away, but having read reports from people much more informed than myself, it seems they have done.
I’ve heard and read many pundits and writers calling this transfer a gamble. Well, if you think about it, all transfers are gambles. It’s impossible to guarantee that an incoming player will justify a transfer, you just have to do all you can in terms of scouting etc. to minimise the risk of a ‘flop’. However, I do see what these people are trying to say. Liverpool are bringing in a player who divides opinion, and even though I’m unsure about how successful he’ll be here, I must admit that for a reported £16m, it’s a gamble that it well worth taking.
Liverpool, although a Champions League club once again, have to take these type of risks if they want to compete domestically with richer clubs. We’ve seen in the past few windows that we struggle to attract players who have the choice to go other major clubs, mainly I presume because of how we’ve had a poor few seasons (up until last year) and also because we don’t offer the salaries that other clubs do. Or in the case of Alexis Sanchez, because we are based too far away from Harrods for his missus’ liking!
Liverpool have to take a chance here and there. Perhaps taking player that other elite clubs are looking to move on. Sometimes it’ll work; like Philippe Coutinho & Daniel Sturridge. Other times it’ll fail; Victor Moses being the main example of this.
We’re shopping in a different market at the moment, but so far this summer, we’ve managed to do a very good job of improving the squad, and credit must go to everybody at the club who has been involved in these transfer deals.
I still have my reservations about Balotelli. I wouldn’t be shocked if he comes to Anfield and lights the world on fire (not literally like he did with his house), and I also wouldn’t be surprised if he flops and is out of the club this time next year.
In Brendan Rodgers, we have a man-manager who will do all he can to integrate Mario into the side, and thanks to the likes of Steven Gerrard, we have what seems to be a very strong dressing room, one that I don’t think Balotelli – if he becomes ‘Bad Mario’ – could upset too much.
If, and it’s looking very likely, we do complete this deal for the Italian, I’ll be right behind him. I’m sure that some people will secretly hope a player who they didn’t want the club to sign fails to make an impression so they can pat themselves on the back and say “I told you so”. I can guarantee that I’m not one of these clowns.
There’s nothing I want more than for Mario to come in and be a success at Liverpool. Will he do this? Time will tell. I have my concerns, but whatever happens, it’s going to be great fun finding out!
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