The gamble that never paid off. A “panic buy” by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers after his club were rejected by the Arsenal favouring Alexis Sanchez.
Sanchez would have been the perfect replacement for the departing Luis Suarez, whose 31 league goals almost won Liverpool their first title in 25 years. Instead, Liverpool fans were left with only Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini as back up to Daniel Sturridge.
Both Lambert and Borini are good players in their own right, but neither have enough quality to represent Liverpool football club. With Sturridge’s poor injury record Rodgers knew a second “decent” striker was necessary so, after Loic Remy “failed a medical”, Rodgers moved to sign Mario.
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It was always a risk. Rodgers knew that he was taking on a player with a big personality and ego, whose history was full of controversial incidents, a player who was labelled “unmanageable” by Jose Mourinho. Rodgers foolishly thought that he could uncover another world-class gem where Mourinho and Mancini both failed.
His entire career, Mario Balotelli has been at the top of European football. Inter Milan signed him when he was only 15 years old. Since then, Balotelli has played for some of Europe’s top clubs, including Manchester City and AC Milan before moving to Liverpool.
However, it seems those days have gone. Liverpool are trying to sell as part of plans to overhaul their squad after a poor season, where they finished only 6th and lost skipper Steven Gerrard who has gone to end his career in the States. During the season, “Super Mario” only managed to score 1 league goal.
Following the signing of Christian Benteke, Balotelli is not needed, not wanted and is no longer part of Rodgers’ plans.
Newcastle were reported to be interested in a loan deal for the Liverpool striker but have since distanced themselves from the player. Liverpool would prefer a permanent deal as they look to strengthen their current first team squad.
However, Newcastle would be reluctant to splash the cash on another striker after spending £13m on Anderlecht and Serbian striker Aleksandar Mitrovic .
U.C. Sampdoria, after parting ways with former Chelsea and Everton striker Samuel Eto’o only 4 months into his year contract, were rumoured to be interested but pulled the plug on any potential deal earlier in the window.
Liverpool hope bids will come in for their miss-firing striker, still only 24, who now appears to have dropped considerably down the pecking order of strikers at the club, behind Benteke, Origi, Ings, Sturridge (when fit) and even Rickie Lambert.
Balotelli is currently at Melwood training ground recovering his fitness for the new season, along with fellow outcasts Jose Enquire and Fabio Borini. Liverpool opted not to include these players in their squad for their pre-season tour in the far-east to catalyse rumours that all have been shown the exit door.
In spite of this, when asked if Balotelli has a future at Anfield, Brendan Rodgers replied that it is in his own hands: “that will be entirely up to Mario!”
Alternatively, some believe that Rodgers should field Balotelli alongside Christian Benteke against Stoke City when Liverpool visit the Britannia on August the 8th. Depending on which Balotelli shows up, defenders would tremor when facing the two Liverpool strikers who are some of the best around when on form.
For Balotelli to rediscover that form he needs games, love, attention and then goals, to become Super Mario again and return to Italy’s international squad.
So, what next for Mario? Is a loan move to Newcastle on the cards, or a return to Italy? Or will he opt to stay at Liverpool and be satisfied with the odd sub appearance and Europa League game? Unless for a dramatic change of form, it seems the days at the top are gone for Super Mario.