Former Manchester United captain Gary Neville believes Liverpool were guilty of serious error when they recruited Mario Balotelli as as replacement for Luis Suarez, and claims they would have been better served signing Alexis Sanchez or Carlos Tevez.
Suarez was sold to Barcelona in a club record deal having finished the previous campaign as the Premier League’s best player, and his goalscoring boots were significant ones to fill for Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
Some of Europe’s most prominent strikers were linked with transfers to Anfield as Liverpool strived to find Suarez’s successor, and it was Balotelli, signed for £16 million from AC Milan, who was the eventual arrival.
Balotelli has, so far at least, appeared a rather poor acquisition - although Liverpool have been collectively substandard - with the Italian finding the net only twice in his 12 appearances for the club.
Not only has Balotelli been unable to find his scoring boots, but his attitude and endeavour have also been under great scrutiny and he has failed to convince in either category. He has been far from an ideal replacement for Suarez.
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“Losing Suárez cost them both quality and spirit. No single player should ever have the club hanging by a thread,” Neville wrote in The Telegraph.
“Man Utd lost talismanic players but never to the point where the competitive basis dropped below title-winning or Champions League level. There was a greater degree of quality throughout the squad.
“If you think of the type of player Suárez was for them, Liverpool needed a Carlos Tévez or an Alexis Sánchez.
“Instead they signed the polar opposite in Mario Balotelli.”
Liverpool had been in contention to sign Sanchez from Barcelona, only for Arsenal to emerge victorious in pursuit of the coveted Chilean. Arsene Wenger paid £35 million for his services, and the attacker is already proving something of a bargain.
Sanchez has been a standout performer in what has already been a season to forget for Arsenal, with the 25-year-old having scored 10 goals and provided a further three in his 13 appearances for the club.
It makes it all the more painful for Liverpool that they were unable to clinch a deal of their own for Sanchez who, according to former Arsenal midfielder Ray Parlour, is a player comparable to Suarez.