Mario Balotelli is available for sale at around £17.5million. Sounds like the deal of the century, doesn’t it? Hmm…I’m not so sure.
First things first, Liverpool’s interest in the AC Milan star is perfectly understandable. Short on striking options and top class back up for Daniel Sturridge, it makes sense for a Champions League club to recruit somebody that’s proven he can score goals at the highest level.
He bagged 24 for Inter Milan in 86 games, 30 in 80 for Manchester City, and as it stands Balotelli has netted an impressive 30 times in just 54 matches for his current employers. According to the figures, he’s improving all the time.
Yet with this particular player we know stats alone won’t ever begin to tell even a quarter of the story…
This week it was reported Brendan Rodgers sounded out the Rossoneri over a season-long loan, but that talks broke down because the Reds were seeking a ‘bad behaviour clause’ - a get-out which could see them send him back to Italy if the striker, as he so often does, plays silly buggers and brings the club’s name into disrepute. Unsurprisingly, AC Milan laughed off that one.
Today, if rumours are to be believed the Anfield giants are contemplating a permanent deal. Bad idea.
My problem isn’t so much with Balotelli as a person. Yes he’s a little bit crazy, and yes he’s done an incredible amount of stupendously silly and outrageous things for a 24-year-old, but by all accounts he’s (and let’s imagine I have the voice of Ray Wilkins here) a thoroughly nice young man.
Being a big character that’s a tad off the wall, to put it mildly, isn’t a reason to snub someone who’s capable of playing football to an extremely high level.
The reason to snub him is because he doesn’t do that anywhere near often enough. On the pitch, Balotelli is simply an enigma you can’t trust or rely upon.
From the outside looking in, Brendan Rodgers has built a wonderful team ethic at Anfield. Dissent within his squad has been all but eradicated, and in general terms the squad appear to be a together, happy bunch.
In addition to his man-management and sensible treatment of players, another reason for Liverpool’s harmonious environment is that everyone pulls their weight. Last season’s runners-up don’t have shirkers who let the side down.
I’ve played in sides that have, and as much as footballers appreciate the talent of a more gifted player around them, if that player can’t be relied upon to deliver what the team needs from him, it creates big problems.
Every moment of flagrant laziness rankles, it winds you up, it distracts you from your own game – and eventually it will always culminate in one almighty row, followed by divisions in the dressing room.
How often does Balotelli frustrate you as a football fan? Strolling around casually, looking disinterested isn’t the exception, it borders on being the norm.
How often has he shocked you with a piece of stupidity? His penchant for a wild, unpredictable red-card lunge just when his team needs him most is now so commonplace it’s not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.
If this irks you as a supporter, multiply it by ten and you won’t get close to how angry his teammates are with him. The presence of someone who can’t be trusted is unhealthy and divisive.
While it’s obvious the boy knows how to finish and that he’s one of the world’s best penalty takers, if I were Liverpool boss I’d give Balotelli a wide berth. The risks outweigh the possible rewards by a long, long way.
To sign a player of his ability for £17.5million sounds cheap, but the cost of rebuilding a united dressing room when the Italian’s frequent inertia detonates team spirit isn’t a price worth paying.
If I were Rodgers, I’d let someone else try and fix him.
Will Liverpool finish in the top 4? Bet now