4 Aug 2015

Pirlo: €60m 'maverick' can become one of Europe's 'top forwards' at Liverpool. Agree...?

Mario Balotelli: To many fans, and ex-Reds, the much-maligned striker is persona-non-grata at Anfield, and is barely worty of consideration. The arrival of Christian Benteke, Divock Origi, and Danny Ings seemingly represents the final nail in the coffin of Balotelli's Liverpool career (such as it is), but is it really all over for the 'maverick' forward? Italy legend Andrea Pirlo doesn't think so, and he insists that Balotelli is still capable of turning things around.

In a recent interview with Shortlist, Pirlo mused:

"He [Balotelli] made mistakes when he was younger, But I hope next season goes well for him, because I still believe he has all the attributes to be one of the top forwards in Europe".

Pirlo also poured cold water on the oft-parroted myth that Balotelli is difficult to handle. He enthused:

"Mario is one of the nicest guys you'll meet. I used to walk into training in Italy and even before he said something I would start laughing. There are never boring moments when Mario is around."

Balotelli is currently linked with several clubs in Serie A, but the speculation seems moot, as Balotelli's agent, Mino Raiola has already claimed that the striker 'will stay' at Liverpool next season. Speaking to Sky Sports recently, Raiola, confirmed:

"We have had talks with Liverpool and he will stay. I spoke many times with the club and they were happy with his input as a professional"

It's hard to take seriously anything Raiola says, though. He is, after all, the guy who recently claimed that Balotelli is worth '€60m-€70m' (!)

Brendan Rodgers has also hinted that Balotelli is staying. When asked about the striker's future during a recent pre-season press conference, he told reporters:

“That will be entirely up to Mario. He is training well with a number of other players at Melwood, and working hard to get fit. We will see when the season begins.”

Rather surprisingly, Balotelli still retains support amongst the Liverpool fanbase. I recently conducted a site-poll asking fans is LFC should keep Balotelli next season. 42% of voters wanted him out, but a majority of 58% seemed fine with having Balotelli as one of Liverpool's forward options next season.

With his constant misuse of the player, Brendan Rodgers is heavily complicit in Balotelli's failure at Anfield.

* In the season prior to joining Liverpool, Balotelli grabbed 25 goals/assists in 39 games for Milan, but at LFC, he's suffered a massive 80% reduction in creative output.

* If every other manager under whom Balotelli has played can get him scoring/creating a career average of 1.7 goals per game, the why can't Rodgers do the same?

Ultimately, though, it doesn't matter. If Balotelli leaves, he will not be missed in the slightest, and if that's the case, why keep him? Just cash-in, and use the money to fund a player who'll fit into the team and make a regular impact.

Easier said that done, of course. Balotelli's deal expires at the end of the 2017 season, and he has the option of just riding out his contract and collecting a fat salary every week.

To be fair, it's not Balotelli's fault that he's rarely played. If Liverpool want value for money, then Rodgers shouldgive the striker a run of games in favoured role, but with Benteke, Ings, and Origi now in the squad, that isn't going to happen.

I still can't shake the niggling feeling that Balotelli will flourish under a different Liverpool manager.

Who knows - if the Italian holds out long enough, he might just get that chance.

Author: Jaimie K


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