Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool owners wanted me to 'develop' Mario Balotelli
Published 17/01/2016 | 21:51
Former Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has claimed club owners Fenway Sports Group told him to sign the problematic Mario Balotelli after he had rejected the player.
The Reds were looking for someone to replace Luis Suarez in the summer of 2014 after his £75million sale to Barcelona and, after missing out on Alexis Sanchez, made a last-minute move for Balotelli.
It was a gamble which never paid off and the Italian was loaned back to AC Milan at the start of this season but Rodgers, who throughout his time in charge at Anfield insisted he had the final say on ins and outs, claimed if he had had his way the striker would have never been signed at all.
"It wasn't just a goalscorer we were after. Luis Suarez was giving so much more than that," he told Sky Sports' Goals on Sunday programme.
"After playing AC Milan in a friendly in America I was asked a question, and he wasn't someone I felt was suited or fitted the profile of what we were after.
"He's had issues, Mario, but he's a wonderful talent and make no mistake.
"Come the end of summer, when we were struggling to get in the type of player we wanted for that role, the ownership thought this was a player I could maybe develop.
"They thought this is a £50million player that they can bring in for £16million, and I can maybe develop him how I developed a few of the other players.
"When the owners want you to go down that route and there are no other options, you give it a go."
Balotelli scored just four goals in 28 appearances and Rodgers' fear of the "circus" which surrounded him was born as there were a number of training-ground tales and questions almost every week at his press conferences.
Rodgers had pinned his hopes on signing Sanchez earlier in the summer but when he went to Arsenal they were suddenly scrabbling around for replacements.
"The huge blow for us was that we felt we could get Alexis Sanchez. We thought he was the like-for-like replacement (for Suarez)," Rodgers added.
"We felt with Luis gone, we would get Sanchez in, it would be a smooth transition into the team - and we would bring in Rickie Lambert alongside him.
"Rickie was going to be an option for us, something else in the game, but it ended up we didn't get him (Sanchez) and unfortunately for Rickie the pressure fell upon him. That wasn't the plan.
"We think Fabio Borini is gone, Daniel (Sturridge) has been injured and all of a sudden the only striker we have is maybe Rickie Lambert.
"At 32 years of age, going into a Champions League season, that's not ideally what you need."
Liverpool's much-criticised transfer committee was a regular bone of contention for Rodgers, who during his time in the job could not do anything other than insist he was happy working alongside others from the recruitment department and senior management as per FSG's model.
The Northern Irishman has now revealed he did not have the final say on transfers, as he had asserted, and that resulted in them missing out on the likes of Dele Alli, who subsequently moved to Tottenham where he is impressing this season.
"It was a group decision. It was certainly not something I would have the sole or final say on," he said.
"You want a player in and there's a list of players but if the player you want isn't on that list, you then have to take the best in that group. It is the model."
On Alli, he added: "Karl Robinson, the actual manager of MK Dons, drove him down to us. He wanted to come to Liverpool.
"It was just then about getting the deal done with the club and unfortunately it never got done but at that point, that Saturday evening, we thought we had him in, it was done."