West Brom defender Joleon Lescott insists that Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli is still a great talent, despite his recent goalscoring struggles.
Mario Balotelli has been constantly poor for the Reds this season, and coupled with his ongoing off-the-field problems, there is talk of the Italian leaving Anfield this summer.
The former Manchester City striker signed for Liverpool last summer in a £16m deal, but has failed to leave up to the price tag resulting in Liverpool’s widely poor season. Balotelli has scored only once in 14 Premier League outings and is yet to earn a single assist either.
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The intimidating forward, also known for his physical prowess has only won 22.9% of his aerial duels this season, according to Opta-powered oulala.com, which is just one of a handful of stats that show he has failed to shine for Liverpool.
But despite all the failings, former Manchester City defender Joleon Lescott has jumped to the defence of Balotelli, insisting he is ‘a good guy’, and that homesickness may be the reason behind his struggles.
"He's a good guy to be around," he told the Express. "Obviously there are times when he has let himself down but that's part and parcel of growing up. He was 20-21 when I was there. Being away from home is hard at that age.”
Whilst it has not worked out on the pitch for Balotelli this season, the Italian has been slated frequently for his off-field antics.
It was only in December that the former AC Milan striker was banned for one game for posting anti-Semitic comments on social media website Instagram.
Lescott still believes Balotelli is a 'great talent', despite his first Liverpool term not going as planned.
"He's a great talent and is right up there with the top players. It has not gone the way he wanted to at Liverpool,” said Lescott, now at West Brom.
Balotelli will need to improve rapidly in his next few Liverpool outings, before manager Brendan Rodgers grows frustrated with his poor performances.