Well, that escalated quickly. As I sat down to write an epic article comparing potential Liverpool transfer targets Rademel Falcao and Mario Balotelli, Liverpool had the audacity to ruin my work and had a bid accepted to sign one of them.
Liverpool manager Brandan Rodgers and Managing Director Ian Ayre really took fans who were asking for direct replacement for Luis Suarez literally, possibly too much so. For months, Liverpool fans have been clamoring for a big name signing to replace the now Barcelona player. Not only did they find a player whose raw talent allows his name to be mentioned in the same breath as Suarez, but they also found a player just as unstable as Suarez.
Enter, Mario Balotelli.
With Suarez gone, Liverpool’s sports psychologist Dr. Steve Peters must have been twiddling his thumbs, hoping for another head case to join the squad and give him something to do. He must be over the moon with this potential signing. I can see him now, skipping down the street to the local supermarket to return a slightly chewed muzzle, exchanging it for a state of the art fire extinguisher.
Yes, it is no secret that Balotelli has had well publicized off the field issues. That time he set off fireworks in his bathroom springs to mind. Sure, he has also had his share of on the field issues as well. One time he was subbed on in a game and managed to get 2 yellow cards in the space of 4 minutes. Then, there was also that video that went viral where he was involved in a massive bust-up with a training bib during practice.
No doubt Rodgers is taking a risk signing a player that can certainly disrupt a dressing room as peaceful as Liverpool’s, but it is a risk worth taking. Such is Balotellis’ talent and Liverpool’s equal need for that talent.
At this point in his career, Balotelli seems to just be looking for a club to settle in at and play his soccer. Liverpool can very easily be that club. Fabio Borini was quoted saying that Mario spoke glowingly of Liverpool when Borini was looking for advice of whether or not he should move to the Merseyside club. He called playing at Anfield a “beautiful experience” and that Liverpool had the most exciting fans to play in front of.
At just 24, Balotelli is not the finished product, but Rodgers can absolutely help him get there. If you look at how Rodgers has handled the hotheaded Raheem Sterling, and how he handled want-a-way Luis Suarez last summer, and even how he guided Daniel Sturridge from a player with potential to the fastest Liverpool player to reach 30 goals; Rodgers definitely has the CV to manage Balotelli’s uber-ego.
This can be a match made in heaven, but it can also blow up in Rodgers’ face.
However, the risk is minimized greatly because of Balotelli’s price tag. Liverpool and AC Milan agreed to a fee of just around $26.5 million, a good way off his actual price based on his talent. If you compare the price to the $20 million fee Southhampton just paid for Shane Long, Liverpool have completed a transfer coup for the ages.
In fact, Daniel Sturridge and Mario Balotelli’s price tags added together equal the amount that smaller Merseyside club just paid for record signing Romelu Lukaku. The transfer is great business, if nothing else.
If Balotelli can adapt to the Liverpool ethos of “no player is bigger than the club” and agree to the rumored behavior clause Liverpool are having him sign, this can be one of the best signings of the summer. It adds an exciting addition to an already exciting Liverpool attack.
The preferred formation will ideally be the 442 diamond played during the title run in last year, with Balotelli stepping in for Suarez. This signing also gives Liverpool needed flexibility as well. Now if either striker gets injured or needs a rest, Liverpool has the depth in other areas of the pitch that they didn’t have last year.They then can put out a strong side week in, week out and rotate and cover as needed.
Gone are the days where Liverpool turns to Stuart Downing for inspiration, or Iago Aspas to whip in his deadly corners during the dying seconds of a match.
This was the final piece to put the cherry on top of Liverpool’s already successful summer transfer period. Now, Liverpool can realistically contend for all of the major honors.
As a Liverpool fan, I have not felt more confident about this squad since the days when Xabi Alonso’s majestic beard partnered the snarling Javier Mascherano in the heart of Liverpool’s midfield. There is a feeling that the signing of Mario Balotelli will either be a huge success, or a massive miscalculation. I can’t see this signing not being a major talking point one way or the other at the end of the season. Either way this pans out, you can count on Balotelli to entertain.