“Shut up!” That was the message from Liverpool’s Mario Balotelli on his Instagram account yesterday, as the Italian once again hit out at the ‘haters’ who have plagued his second spell in English football.
In fairness to Balotelli, he has had a hard life, as he emphatically stated, with his journey to the top of the footballing ladder having been a tough one filled with set-backs both on a personal and professional front.
He, however, does little to help himself, and considering the links with a move away from Anfield after just under a year on Merseyside, it’s hard to see the 24-year-old staying a part of Brendan Rodgers’ set-up, especially given the Reds’ recent impressive run of form.
So who should ‘shut up’? Mario or his critics? We think the former, and here are FIVE reasons why…
£16m is not a massive fee in terms of modern day football, but such an investment in a striker should bring plenty of goals, especially if he’s playing for one of the biggest sides in English football. However, Balotelli has a tally of four, one of which came from the penalty spot, to his name, despite playing over 20 games for his current side.
To put that into perspective, Raheem Sterling – a winger who has been used as a centre-forward – has six in the Premier League alone.
Rodgers’ teams are all about fluid movement, high-tempo pressing, intelligent runs and tactical flexibility. Although a clearly talented player, Mario does not truly fit into any of those criteria, with his game based on power and individual magic. Balotelli’s show reel proves that he has some justification to his approach, but as long as Rodgers is in charge, it appears that he will not truly fit at Anfield.
Somewhat ironically, ‘Balo’ may well have been a success under previous managers such as Kenny Dalglish, Roy Hodgson and Rafa Bentiez, who would have been more inclined to make use of his hold-up capabilities.
Liverpool have won eight of their last nine games, playing themselves right into contention for fourth place after a shocking start to the campaign. The Reds are undefeated in domestic action (over a 90 minute period, at least) in 2015, and this upturn in form has coincided with Balotelli’s peripheral first-team role.
The 24-year-old has been, largely, confined to the bench or dropped altogether, which has allowed Rodgers to get the players he needs on the pitch, and the points haul speaks for itself. Okay, Balotelli scored a massive goal to seal a 3-2 win at home to Spurs, but he’s done little else of not since Christmas.
He may have won the Premier League and the FA Cup in his spell at Man City, but Balotelli’s Etihad Stadium journey was one blighted with controversy and a failure to live up to expectations. Some big goals were scored, but fall-outs off the pitch and questionable actions on it saw him shuffle off back to Italy with his tail between his legs.
Some players use such experiences to develop and move on, yet ‘Balo’ appears to have done little in terms of self-improvement.
To this day, Balotelli has one assist in Premier League action. That ball was the one from which Sergio Aguero scored the title-winning goal back in 2012. Not bad, eh?
But, to contribute to a Liverpool team that is all about the sum of its parts, Balotelli has to add creativity to his skill set, and it looks as if he’s just not cut out for that. Luis Suarez may have earned plaudits for his goal tally last season, but the Uruguayan also contributed 12 assists, which were just as important.