Brendan Rodgers must "love" Mario Balotelli if he has any hope of getting the best out of him and not seeing the Italian become a £16million failure at Liverpool, according to Serie A legend Andrea Pirlo.
Balotelli was signed from AC Milan in the summer for what was considered a very reasonable fee, especially for one so talented and only 23 years old. But things have not quite gone to plan early and the erratic striker has yet to hit the heights he is capable of.
Publicity around his struggles in form have been compounded by the fact that Liverpool are not playing particularly well generally. It has been a difficult start to the season for Rodgers, as the expectations were raised from the second place Premier League finish last term - four wins and three defeats in nine games is not satisfactory for some.
Pirlo has played with Balotelli for the Italian national team and has good experience of what it is like to play with him. The Juventus playmaker is convinced the young forward can become one of the leading players in the world, but the condition have to be just right for him - that starts with how his manager treats him.
There is no question over his talent - I have played with him and I know how good he is
"The difference between other players and Mario is that every action he takes is going to be scrutinised," he is quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
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"The media is interested in him, and things he does are going to be highlighted - where perhaps with other players they would not get such a reaction - or maybe even no reaction at all.
He needs to be loved
"There is no question over his talent - I have played with him and I know how good he is and how good he can be. It is the job of the Liverpool coach to manage him in the right way.
"He needs to be loved, he needs direction, but most importantly he needs to know that the coach believes in him. If he [Rodgers] spends time with Mario - I know he can still go on and be a great player for Liverpool."
No end in sight?
That prospect seems a long way off at the moment, especially if Liverpool carry on labouring as they have been in the Premier League. Balotelli has never been the most energetic player, but his seeming listlessness is making supporters of the Anfield club very frustrated and there has already been some vocal disapproval from the stands.
Some will be worrying how long his Liverpool teammates will be willing to put up with him too, as the exasperation from what seems continued poor choices in attack moves has already drawn open gestures of exasperation. It would not be the first time that he has infuriated colleagues close to breaking point.
By all accounts from his time at both Manchester City and AC Milan, the former Inter Milan youth star is a genuinely nice person and is liked by his fellow squad members. It is just the lack of application and apparent inability to learn from his mistakes that eventually becomes too much for some.
His departures from Manchester City and AC Milan have left a sense of unfulfilled potential and as soon as it was announced he would be joining the Anfield club the words 'last chance' were used quite often.
One positive is that he is now at a club whose fans are fiercely loyal towards their players, he just needs to earn their trust first. The Capital One Cup win over Swansea City on Tuesday night was a start, where he scored a late equaliser before another new signing struggling, Dejan Lovren, headed a late winner.
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