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Mario Balotelli could be a shrewd signing for Liverpool

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Mario Balotelli, wherever he has been throughout his eventful career so far, has always divided opinion.

From setting off fireworks in his home to scoring goals with his shoulder and providing moments of brilliance for his team, Balotelli has rarely failed to make the headlines on and off the pitch.

On Monday, Liverpool replaced Luis Suarez - another controversial but brilliant figure - with AC Milan striker Balotelli for a fee of £16 million. 

Potential

His talents have led many to believe that he could well become one of the best players in the world. However, as proven, the only person getting in Mario Balotelli's way is Mario Balotelli.

The Italian started his career at Lumezzane before quickly making a switch to Serie A giants Inter Milan. His ability was soon recognised by some of Europe's elite after he scored 20 league goals in 59 games for the club.

Yet it was his controversial attitude that also made the world take notice. His relationship with manager Jose Mourinho deteriorated after several incidents such as his alleged lack of effort in training and publicly wearing an A.C. Milan jersey on the Italian show Striscia la Notizia, igniting angry outbursts from Inter fans.

Mourinho, while at Real Madrid, chose a pertinent example when speaking about the problems of trying to control Balotelli.

"I remember one time went to play Kazan in the Champions League," he said.

"In that match I had all my strikers injured. No Diego Milito, no Samuel Eto’o, I was really in trouble and Mario was the only one.

"Mario got a yellow card in the 42nd minute, so when I go to the dressing room at half-time I spend about 14 minutes of the 15 available speaking only to Mario.

"I said to him, ‘Mario, I cannot change you, I have no strikers on the bench, so don’t touch anybody and play only with the ball. If we lose the ball no reaction. If someone provokes you, no reaction, if the referee makes a mistake, no reaction.' The 46th minute, red card."

The problems off the pitch for Balotelli were only the start for him.

Manchester City troubles

When he moved to Manchester City, several lacklustre displays and incidents - including the infamous training ground bust-up with manager Roberto Mancini towards the end of his time with the club - lead Mancini to eventually give up and sell the controversial striker to AC Milan.

Yet, after another eventful but unsuccessful spell in his home country, there is an increasing feeling that this could be Balotelli's last chance at a big club, and it is one he has to take.

Balotelli scored 26 goals during his 46 game spell with AC Milan, with six of his 14 league goals coming from outside the box - bettered only by three other players (7) from Europe's top five leagues, underlining his undoubted talent

But what will the controversial Italian give Liverpool after the departure of star man Suarez?

On his day, Balotelli can be frighteningly good. His showing at Euro 2012, most notably against England and in the semi-final against Germany, made many fans wonder, why can't he do this more often? 

His power and pace, combined with devastating finishing ability will be something that Liverpool supporters hope to see plenty of at Anfield. His combination with key players Raheem Sterling and Daniel Sturridge should become an important factor in Liverpool's fortunes this campaign, especially during tight European games.

Balotelli will give Liverpool options. A bigger schedule due Champions League fixtures means that the Reds can't rely on Sturridge to do the bulk of the scoring and it is up to Balotelli to swing the tide in Liverpool's favour on those big nights at Anfield.

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Tough challenge for Rodgers

Perhaps the biggest and most important challenge for manager Brendan Rodgers is making sure Balotelli is 100% focused on the task at hand. When the Italian is on song, he is an asset to any club, but when he isn't focused, he is a problem.

This was evident towards the end of his time with Manchester City. The striker, troubled with off the field incidents at the time, scored only one goal in his final 16 appearances for the club and ended his first spell in England with a red card ratio of one per 18 Premier League games, the third highest of any player in the league with more than three red cards.

If Rodgers produce a motivated and concentrated Balotelli, then the talent should most certainly follow. It is however, a big 'if'.

Nevertheless, it is a signing that has got not only Liverpool fans but Premier League viewers excited again, and we could be set for more extraordinary moments from the one they call 'Super Mario'.

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Topics:
Football
Liverpool
Premier League
Mario Balotelli

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