It looks like Mario Balotelli is joining Liverpool, I’m going to say that again, Balotelli is (probably) joking Liverpool. Brendan Rodgers clearly isn’t content with the scandal-free summer just passed and is looking to spice things up in a post-Suarez world, the “Mad Dog” is out and the “Mad Mario” is in. Many comparisons are being drawn between the two, both are aggressive in attack, both have a habit for making headlines and both enjoy plundering the England goal and knocking us out of tournaments, from one media “darling” to another. But no matter how many comparisons can be drawn between the pairs oft-mentioned moments of insanity they couldn’t be more different as players. Suarez is a force of nature and the most talented individual to ever wear a Liverpool shirt was a phenomenon for Liverpool and would have been golden boot winner for two years running (was three ahead of Van Persie at the time his suspension was handed out in the 2012/13 season). He is simply irreplaceable in his contribution to the team that he plays for. Balotelli signs for Liverpool very much as the number two striker ,he is simply not in the same class as Suarez, but that is not to say he can’t be. Many in the media are lambasting the club hierarchy as having “lost their heads” and spouting clichés such as “jumping out if the frying pan and into the fire” while my fellow fanatics are deliciously ecstatic at the prospect, simply put, we love a bastard, a bastard that’s ours.
So here is why the Balotelli signing makes sense:
1. Liverpool are in dire need of a striker. Sturridge has earned his place as the leading man, however, he has a patchy injury record and will never play more than 30 league games a season. Rickie Lambert is a solid squad player but at 32 hardly represent the future and is somewhat lacking in pace. Balotelli is the physical embodiment of the classical English number 9, he’s built like a tank, he’s quick, he’s not intimidated and has a lethal right food. not bad at set pieces either. To mount a top four challenge, let alone a title challenge, Liverpool need strength-in-depth up front and Balotelli represents a player who could either partner or replace Sturridge in attack.
2. Liverpool can add variety to their attack. Rodgers seems to be leaning towards a 4231 formation due to both his fondness for versatile attacking midfielders-cum-wingers. The truth is Liverpool looked at their best last season in a diamond formation with two strikers. Their plethora of multi-taskers in the middle means that they have the capacity to field both Sturridge and Balotelli. Sturridge can be accused of drifting into the wings a tad too much (particularly to the right) and while this worked to great effect with Suarez in-tow it doesn’t work quite so well when up front alone. If Balotelli can replicate the same sort of runs Suarez used to, he certainly has the ability, then he can scare the life out of defenders. He offers an alternative to Sturridge for different games, more physically imposing, right-footed and with a scary-as-hell death-stare he throws a spanner in the works for teams plotting to negate a pacey Sturridge attack.
3. He is proven in the Premier League. Though lacking the best scoring record in open=-play Balotelli had a decent record in England. 20 goals in 54 (League) appearances considering a third of them were off the bench is not-bad for a player who was then in his early twenties. He won’t require the adjustment needed for most foreigners to acclimatise to the pace and physicality of the Premier League. He scores a lot of goals from free kicks and is one of the best penalty takers that the game has seen, with Lambo and Gerrard in the squad Liverpool will have one of the strongest set-play teams in the league, something they were already pretty good at.
4. Rodgers may be the one to unlock his potential. It’s widely believe that Mario has yet to near revealing his true capabilities. His seemingly bad attitude and laziness has led to managerial heavyweights such as Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini branding him an impossibility, a lost cause. Rodgers, who built his reputation in youth coaching, has been nothing short of a miracle-working with his man-management and the improvement he has made on players. Raheem Sterling has evolved from inconsistent winger into a multi-positional, intelligent attacked who will one day be challenging for the Ballon d’Or in the near future, Daniel Sturridge has gone from fourth-choice at Chelsea to world-beater and what about the man once nicknamed Horrendosen? If Balotelli really does have capacity to be the talent predicted by many then Rodgers is the man to bring that out.
5. He’s a bargain. The departure of Suarez has left Liverpool with a lack of star-power and the Kop needing a hero to worship. Mario is that hero, he ticks every category possible to ensure cult-legend status among redmen everywhere. He scores goals, he told a Sun journalist to shut-up and not ask him any questions, he doesn’t like bullies, he can’t master the bib, he nonchalantly pissed-off the entire Manchester United squad and he spends his money on a variety of scooters, post-firework bathroom renovations, homeless people and meme inspiring t-shirts. You can see why so many are eager for him to rock-up in the North West. More than that he is only 24, and at a relatively paltry sixteen million (especially considering Borini and his impending sale to Sunderland for 14) represents a low risk, even if he himself is quite a risk. He is young enough to learn and develop his game and take on Rodgers advice, in Steven Gerrard he has a statesmen to put him in place. If you consider that Bony would have cost twenty, Falcao ten for a single year and Cavani anything upwards of 35 it represents good business. If it doesn’t work out he still should have enough market value to be moved on. He also offers lots of commercial opportunities for the club, he’s a big-name player who In a world when Ross McCormack costs eleven million pounds and Shane Long 12, it looks good business indeed.
And though I am fully in favour of the transfer (though I would love to have seen Falcao at the club) there are some reservations:
1. Indiscipline. He has a habit for picking up red cards, worse than that, he gets sent off in big games at the worst possible moment. It may just be Rodgers ego that he believes he is the one to tame the Italian.
2. He is lazy and may be tactically inflexible. Rodgers demands his players be both flexible and hard-working, two things that Mario has never displayed. Whether he can fit into Rodgers system is curious, one cannot see him dropping into midfield or replicating anything near the pressing that Luis had previously offered.
3. He’s an Enigma. Nobody on Earth can predict how this will go.
So those are my thoughts in an exciting transfer window. Why always you Mario, why always you.