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Balo represent Rodger's liverpool biggest challenge

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Forget Suarez, Balotelli represents
Rodgers's biggest Liverpool challenge
The AC Milan striker is on the verge of
completing a move to Anfield and he is capable
of being one of the stars of the Premier League
upon his return to England
21 Aug 2014 15:00:00
COMMENT
By Richard Jolly
The good news for Liverpool
is that Mario Balotelli has
never bitten anyone on a
football field. He has thrown
darts at youth-team players,
paid an impromptu visit to a women’s prison and
gatecrashed an Inter Milan press conference, but he
has never confused an opponent with a snack.
Because the madness of Mario rarely involves
malice. His antics can be amusing and are
sometimes stupid but he is not the second Luis
Suarez. That is both compliment and criticism.
Balotelli’s many misdemeanours are not as serious
as the former Liverpool striker’s crimes, but nor are
his feats as great. Balotelli possesses potential in
abundance. Suarez, in between the scandals, has
realised his.
That is why Barcelona have paid £75 million for the
Uruguayan, whereas AC Milan are willing to sell
Liverpool the Italian for a quarter of that price.
Balotelli has lasted one-and-a-half years at the San
Siro. He was at Manchester City for two-and-a-half
seasons, which is nearer his norm, before they tired
of waiting for him to mature. Many at the Etihad
Stadium were relieved to see him go and City have
shed their reputation as the Premier League’s ‘Fight
Club’ since Balotelli and his sparring partner and
mentor, Roberto Mancini, took their leave.
Yet if Liverpool were due a quiet life after Suarez
and a controversy-free existence as altogether more
predictable characters such as Adam Lallana and
Rickie Lambert generated purely positive headlines,
Brendan Rodgers has decided to take a gamble.
Managing Suarez clearly hasn’t scarred him. Another
maverick is wanted.
TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW | Suarez's 2013-14 stats
dwarf Balotelli's efforts for AC Milan
It says something about Liverpool’s struggle to sign
a world-class striker. Theirs has been an exhaustive
search and there can be no pretence that Balotelli
was their first choice; not when Rodgers
categorically ruled out bidding for him three weeks
ago . Yet, before anyone brands it an act of
desperation, it also reveals the huge self-confidence
of Rodgers. Many a manager would not
contemplate signing Balotelli. The Northern
Irishman clearly believes he can succeed where
others failed.
Balotelli presents a test of his man-management
and coaching skills. If the risks are high, the rewards
could be colossal. Players such as Suarez, Daniel
Sturridge and Raheem Sterling have improved
exponentially under Rodgers’s tutelage. Balotelli
may be more gifted than any. He has a blend of
physical and technical ability that is almost
unrivalled in the world game.He allies a heavyweight boxer’s build with rare pace
– when he chooses to use it – and a talent for ball-
striking that enables him to score from long range.
Balotelli at his best – as he was in City’s 6-1 win over
Manchester United in 2011 or Italy’s Euro 2012
semi-final win over Germany – is an awesome
proposition. Tellingly, both performances came for
managers, in Mancini and Cesare Prandelli, who
then believed in him. Rodgers’ inherent positivity
may enable him to convince Balotelli he has faith in
him.
Balotelli’s failings
can be
exaggerated. He
scored a career-
best 18 goals last
season, no mean
feat in a
mediocre Milan
team, yet he still
represents an
untapped talent.
The consistency
Suarez
discovered has
proved elusive, much as Balotelli's concentration
still seems to waver.
Yet there is one encouraging precedent at Anfield.
When Sturridge joined in January 2013, he was
warned he was on his last chance at a big club.
Balotelli is not quite in the same situation, at 24, but
the enfant terrible is no longer an enfant. He is still
to justify predictions of greatness. Ensuring the 31-
goal Suarez isn’t missed would be a start.
Besides easing the burden on Sturridge’s shoulders,
he could have a secondary benefit to Liverpool.
Tactically, Alexis Sanchez would have been the ideal
replacement for the Uruguayan; his ability to play
on the wing or as a striker would have suited
Rodgers. While Balotelli is better leading the line, his
versatility could facilitate similar switches between
4-2-3-1 and 4-3-3. His arrival would bode badly for
Lambert; Southampton’s penalty-taker supreme
may now find himself losing any training-ground
competition with Balotelli, who finds peace that
escapes him elsewhere in his life from 12 yards.The danger of bringing in Balotelli is that he
destabilises the dressing room. Indeed, he already
has. A month after his bathroom was damaged
when the misguided decision to set off fireworks
was made, he was sent off at Anfield. The door bore
the brunt of his frustration, Balotelli removing it
from its hinges in anger. "If he damaged the door,
he pays," shrugged Mancini. But whatever damage
Balotelli does to the fixtures and fittings, he has the
capacity to be a match-winner at any level. And
that's exactly why Liverpool want to sign him.

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