Brendan Rodgers is a smart man, which makes it even more incredible why the Liverpool manager signed Mario Balotelli towards the end of the summer transfer window.
Balotelli is not half as talented as many people bizarrely make him out to be. Were it not for his status as football’s interesting bad boy he’d simply be your run-of-the-mill top-flight striker, rather than a forward with a reputation bordering on ‘flawed genius’.
Flawed, yes. Genius, patently not. Balotelli has failed to score a single Premier League goal for Liverpool this season - despite being presented with a host of gilt-edged opportunities - but has bought himself some additional time thanks to his goal against Swansea City in the Capital One Cup fourth round on Tuesday night.
Balotelli: Not in Suarez's league
Liverpool supporters desperately want to love Balotelli, but he’s making it hard for them so far. There have been a few controversial incidents, obviously, including swapping shirts at half-time with Pepe in last week’s 3-0 defeat to Real Madrid, but it’s his lack of effort which has infuriated the Reds’ faithful the most.
In Luis Suarez, Liverpool had one of the world’s hardest-working strikers. Time and time again during his time at Anfield, the world-class Uruguay international made and scored goals from out of nothing thanks to his remarkable tenacity.
- Pirlo tells Brendan Rodgers he must love Balotelli
- Balotelli to be given fine for Liverpool shirt-swap
- Steven Gerrard shows Balotelli how to swap shirts
Suarez was not in it for the personal glory. He may have scored a magnificent 31 goals last season, but his sole focus was on winning matches for the team.
Liverpool were never going to find a striker as talented and committed as Suarez, who now plies his trade alongside Lionel Messi and Neymar at Barcelona, but they could have done an awful lot better than Balotelli.
'Calculated risk' is failing
The general consensus was that, at £16 million, Liverpool were taking a calculated gamble on Balotelli. Rodgers, himself, described Balotelli as a "risk worth taking" back in August - but it was a risk destined to fail.
Rodgers may have felt that he possessed the managerial qualities to transform a player like Balotelli, but seldom does a leopard ever change its spots. And, in any case, it’s not the off-field antics that are the problem here - but his lackadaisical style of play.
All too often, Balotelli can be seen strolling about, playing the game at his own pace while looking moody in the process. Some pundits have recently suggested that Balotelli simply doesn’t know how to play as a lone forward, but if this is the case then how is he playing for one of English football’s most prestigious clubs?
Mourinho was right about Balotelli
Throughout his professional career, top managers have found themselves essentially babysitting Balotelli. And they’ve all realised - including the likes of Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini - that he’s simply not worth the hassle.
Mourinho, who coached Balotelli while at Inter Milan, once described the Italy international as “unmanageable”. This was coming from the world-class coach famed for his man-management abilities.
And Rodgers really ought to have consulted his former colleague at Stamford Bridge before wasting £16 million of Liverpool’s transfer budget earlier this season.