Gerrard: Mario can be Anfield idol
Published 01/09/2014 | 12:27
Steven Gerrard is confident Mario Balotelli will become a "terrific player" for Liverpool and expects the club's fans to welcome him.
In need of another striker following the exit of star man Luis Suarez, the Reds last week plumped for a shock move for the maverick Italian.
Arriving in a cut-price £16million just 18 months after leaving the Barclays Premier League, Brendan Rodgers said Balotelli was a "risk worth taking", but admitted the player was facing his "last chance" to thrive at the top level.
The 24-year-old was thrown straight in at the deep end by the Reds boss on Sunday, who started the striker from the outset at Tottenham six days after arriving from AC Milan.
Liverpool comfortably triumphed 3-0 despite Balotelli missing a host of chances, but Gerrard saw enough to be confident he will have a big impact at Anfield.
"With all due respect to Manchester City and AC Milan, Mario is going to get a different kind of support here," the Reds captain said.
"These are the best fans in the world and traditionally they always get behind our strikers. I've told him it's there for him.
"If he plays well and works hard for these supporters, they'll get behind him. He won't have experienced support like that he's about to get.
"He's a big, strong lad. He held it up terrifically well. All eyes were on him and I thought he was a terrific team player.
"He did a lot of ugly work for the team and showed some really good touches. You've got to remember that he's only had three lots of 45 minutes in pre-season, so with game time and getting used to the manager and players around him, he's going to be a terrific player for us."
Balotelli was replaced just after the hour mark at White Hart Lane, by which point the three points were secure. Raheem Sterling swept home after just eight minutes, before a Gerrard penalty and solo goal by Alberto Moreno in the second half secured another dominant win against Spurs.
Moreno's goal was particularly impressive as he dispossessed substitute Andros Townsend and raced the length of the Spurs half to unleash a fine low drive past Hugo Lloris.
"I'm just glad we got the signing over the line because I had watched him quite a bit for Sevilla," Gerrard said of the left-back, speaking to the club's official website, www.liverpoolfc.com.
"I had watched YouTube clips of him and I knew he was a flier, quick and very aggressive with and without the ball.
"He showed his aggression with the ball today with a terrific run and the finish at the end of it was just pure quality.
"If a Real Madrid or Barcelona player did that, everybody would be getting carried away. Give him credit - that was a top goal."