Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers opts to replace Luis Suarez with bad boy Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli is on his way to Liverpool
Mario Balotelli is on his way to Liverpool

Having let go of one troublemaker, Liverpool yesterday agreed a fee for another.

Plenty of likenesses have been drawn between Mario Balotelli and former Anfield favourite Luis Suarez as Liverpool prepare to bring the AC Milan striker back to England in a £16m deal.

Unfortunately for Brendan Rodgers' side, the comparisons with Suarez are a little forced – Balotelli may be spectacular and unpredictable but he is unlikely to score 30 goals a season, indeed, that was his total tally in two-and-a-half years with Manchester City.

He will also have to make major changes to his style of play if he is to lead Liverpool's high-energy, pressing game as Suarez did; and neither does he lead the same family-orientated life of suburban sobriety away from the pitch as the Uruguayan did.

The consolation for the club's supporters is that it will not be dull and at £16m, even if they get just a couple of seasons of excitement from him before 19-year-old Belgian international Divock Origi returns from his loan spell back at Lille and matures into the top striker Ulsterman Rodgers believes he can become, then it will have been worth it.

If a £90,000-a-week, five-year contract is agreed in time and the 24-year-old is registered before midday today, he could make his debut against Manchester City at the Etihad on Monday.

The opponents may be an early reminder of the reasons he gave for wanting to leave the country in 2013.

When Balotelli moved to Milan in January of that year, he was asked what it was he didn't like about England: "The press, the weather, the food, the way you drive. That's it," was his reply – crashing his Audi R8 three weeks after arriving in Manchester might have put him off English roads for a lifetime.

But in that grumpy presentation, he also praised the atmosphere and quality of what he referred to several times as the "amazing" Premier League, and Rodgers (pictured) will be able to tap into that, getting him right for big matches, in which he tended not to let Man City down.

He also represents a more viable investment than Samuel Eto'o, who might have been perfect for Liverpool's style of play five years ago when Barcelona sold him to appease Pep Guardiola, but not at his current age, 33.

Eto'o is another potentially difficult player to manage and his fallings-out have sometimes involved team-mates. Balotelli's do not usually cause too much dressing-room discord.

It could still be a bumpy ride, however, especially if the form of some of the other Liverpool players signed in their £101m summer spending spree outperform him and limit his first-team involvement – an idle Balotelli is twice as dangerous as a motivated, regularly starting one.

At Milan he seemed to have found a coach who could get the best out of him in Clarence Seedorf.

He scored the late penalty against Verona that insured Seedorf won his first match in charge in January 2014; he even dedicated the goal to his new manager.

But Seedorf was out of a job by June, going the same way as the last coach to put his faith in Balotelli, Roberto Mancini.

Rodgers should at least have enough attacking options to not need to make the same mistake. And if against the odds he makes a long-term success of the transfer, it will go down as one of his greatest triumphs.

Mario’s misdemeanours

March 2010: Internazionale forward is pictured on Italian TV in Milan shirt. Cautioned by police for firing a toy pistol.

November 2010: After £24m move to Man City, scores first League goals at West Bromwich before being sent off.

March 2011: Reported to have thrown darts at youth player in training. Sent off in Europa League, earning four-match ban.

July 2011: Taken off after trying to score with what boss Roberto Mancini felt was a disrespectful back-flick in friendly against LA Galaxy.

October 2011: Fireworks let off in his mansion. Scores twice in 6-1 win over Man Utd and reacts by revealing 'Why Always Me?' T-shirt.

November 2011: Sent off at Liverpool. Training ground bust-up with Micah Richards.

January 2012: Four-game ban for stamp on Scott Parker.

March 2012: On-pitch row with Aleksandar Kolarov.

April 2012: Sent off at Arsenal after foul on Bacary Sagna.

January 2013: Training ground bust-up with Roberto Mancini before joining Milan for £20m.

June 2013: Dismissed in World Cup qualifier in Czech Republic.

September 2013: Sent off for dissent after final whistle against Napoli.

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