Mario Balotelli’s proposed move to Liverpool looks as good as done at this point. While an official conformation is all that is left, the twenty-four year old looks set to join the Merseyside club for a reported £16 million. The Italian striker is a polarising figure, somebody who has achieved cult status to many in the world of football, while also being something of a footballing leper to others. No matter what you think though, this is a good signing for Liverpool for a variety of reasons.
Many have been quick to say that Liverpool have built a team oriented style of play, something that manager Brendan Rodgers certainly didn’t achieve overnight. In fact, getting talented individuals like Luis Suarez, Philippe Coutinho and Raheem Sterling to buy into playing predominately for the team may just be the Antrim man’s greatest achievement since taking over at the club.
Balotelli of course is a different animal, one who is portrayed as looking out for himself first and foremost, while also appearing in the media far too often for reasons other than scoring goals. The danger it has been said is that the arrival of the character that is Super Mario will create an imbalance within the team. Liverpool themselves would appear so concerned by this, that they have drawn up rules within his contract about being on his best behaviour at all times.
While it would probably be in everybody’s best interests if he faded into the background, if he doesn’t, what exactly is the big issue here? He’s played in the Premier League before, and won a league title in the process. He was mad at his former club, Manchester City, and yet they seemed to do alright with him as part of the team. With more dramatics and egos at The Etihad than the set of Jersey Shore, Balotelli included, the team was still a success.
Ok so City were a better team than Liverpool are now, but not by a whole lot. Liverpool have made some nice signings this summer that compliment the players they already have. Balotelli would certainly add to that, and he would no doubt score goals. Yes he may have only scored three league goals in twenty appearances in the league during his last season in England, but really the writing was already on the wall for him at that point. Not to mention the various suspensions he received that restricted his playing time.
With strikers like Sergio Aguero and Eden Dzeko at the club as well, he was hardly the main man and so had to share goal scoring duties. We shouldn’t forget though, that it was Balotelli who set Aguero up to score that goal which clinched the crown for City. So it’s not like he’ll need time to acclimatise to life in England either.
Returning to the matter of Balotelli potentially upsetting team chemistry, the bottom line is, it doesn’t matter as much as people make it out to. Do you think Michael Jordan and John Paxson got on? Do you think many of Michael Jordan’s teammates liked him for that matter? The guy had a huge ego, always took the big shots and was loved by everybody, that’s not easy to play with.
Similarly, in most dressing rooms across professional football in Europe, not everybody is going to like one another, that’s just the way it is. As long as they coexist on the pitch, what the players think about one another is of no concern to the normal fan.
The guy is only twenty-four years old, and already has played for some of the biggest teams in the world. It’s been said Milan are desperate to offload him, and maybe that’s the case. But we don’t know the whole story. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, one of the best strikers in the world over the last ten years, was sold from Barcelona to Milan for roughly £20 million.
Of course he was worth more, and it was no secret that then manager Pep Guardiola wasn’t a fan of his, so a cut price move was made. Balotelli may currently be in a similar situation.
No matter what though, this is a deal that Liverpool had to pull the trigger on. Balotelli’s best days are still ahead of him, and he has scored a lot of goals wherever he has played, including for Italy. He can fade out of games and look flat out disinterested, as was evident against Costa Rica at this summer’s World Cup. But for every one of these games there are more memorable ones like his destruction of Germany at Euro 2012, as well as his showing against England this summer.
The fact of the matter is, Liverpool have done a smart bit of business here. Should their new striker succeed, he will sooth some of the pain of losing Suarez and make Rodgers look like he tamed the beast. If he proves too unruly, he can simply be sold on, and probably not at too much of a loss either. He is too talented for teams to ignore, and will have a club until he decides to retire. Congratulations to Liverpool, on acquiring a player of occasional world class talent for a fraction of his true value.