It’s not outrageous, it’s not disgraceful, it’s not a sackable offence, but swapping shirts at half time is definitely odd. I mean, why not wait until the final whistle? Seems to height of impatience to me.
Swapping shirts at half time, when you’re losing 3-0? Now that’s different.
Having the brass neck to conduct said swap in full view of the fans, and millions of TV viewers around the world? Well, that’s just arrogant and disrespectful.
When Mario Balotelli strolled off the Anfield pitch at the interval last night (at just about the top speed he managed all evening) his sole focus should have been on putting things right in the second half. In his position, I wouldn’t have dared look at a Real Madrid player, let alone instigate a game of swapsies.
But the Italian’s actions confirmed what we’ve known all along. Balotelli doesn’t give a monkey’s about Liverpool Football Club, or the supporters. Living in his own cuckoo shaped bubble, all the striker cares about is himself. And that’s why Brendan Rodgers needs to replace him at the earliest possible convenience.
I’ve played with a one or two ‘loose cannons’ in my time and they were never anything but infuriating to share a dressing room with. What they boasted in talent (they had plenty, otherwise they’d never have been tolerated) these guys frittered away, in total disregard for personal responsibility.
The name Rocky Baptiste may ring a bell for those of you follow the non-league scene. The striker made a name for himself scoring a goal for Farnborough Town at Highbury in an FA Cup tie against Arsenal, and became a YouTube sensation a few years later, when producing ‘The Miss of the Century’ (followed by a corker)...
I don’t like picking on people, but Rocky reminds me so much of Balotelli. Languid, unpredictable and on his day absolutely unstoppable, my former Margate teammate was like the Italian, very much a one in five kind of guy.
Four times a month the rest of us would want to ring his neck, but once every few matches he’d always deliver something special.
Was the pay off worth it with this type of player? Not in my experience.
I captained Rocky and it was a nightmare. He was a nice enough guy, quiet and polite off the pitch, but once he set foot on the field he’d drift off into a world of his own. Impossible to talk to; he was always in the right, and on more than one occasion that season (2004/05) he’d almost come to blows with a teammate that was angry with his behaviour. If my memory serves me right, I’m pretty sure he once punched me in training. Controlling him was chaotic.
Rocky did try to wrestle the ball from my grasp as I was waiting to take a penalty one afternoon. Attempting to snatch it, he told me over and over and over that it was ‘mine’.
We’ve seen those kinds of squabbles before, but this one went on way too long. He just wasn’t prepared to accept that I had the authority. All he cared about was how much he wanted to score a goal. The rest of the team and the crowd may as well have been invisible.
As the regular taker I stood my ground and told him to pipe down, by the way.
Playing with a maverick striker that’s lazy, unreliable and uncontrollable is an exercise in irritation.
You can have ten guys working their socks off, sweating blood for the cause, but if there’s one passenger, one liability, one constant let down, it can tip even the calmest of teammates over the edge.
In the end it’s easy to become so distracted by your own exasperation, that it affects your performance too.
Mario Balotelli - and others in his mould - are rarely worth the gamble.
The negative impact their presence can have on the concord inside a dressing room almost always outweighs the flashes of brilliance they can provide.
Football is a team game, and at the very highest level that’s an even more prevalent factor. Playing with a man down will bite you on the backside time and again.
I believe Brendan Rodgers needs to see the back of Balotelli, before he gets him the sack.
It’s time to sell him or shelve him. No matter what happens, in January a top class replacement must be bought.
Liverpool supporters deserve a front man that wants to passionately fight for the cause, not other people’s jerseys.
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