Balotelli is still too lazy - Rodgers
Reds boss insists striker must 'work harder'
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has accused Mario Balotelli of undermining his match-winning efforts against Besiktas because of his poor work-rate.
In the latest criticism of the Italian, Rodgers downplayed the idea of the striker enjoying an Anfield renaissance, suggesting he did not put enough effort into the closing stages of the 1-0 Europa League first-leg win in midweek.
Balotelli scored the winning penalty after 85 minutes, with the manager confirming the 25-year-old had his blessing to assume the penalty-taking role ahead of acting captain Jordan Henderson.
However, when speaking directly after Liverpool's win on Thursday Rodgers expressed irritation at other aspects of Balotelli's game.
Asked if Balotelli was developing a happy knack of becoming a hero from the bench, Rodgers said: "Well, if he works harder than when he came on, he will do."
Pushed on whether he was content with the contribution Balotelli made, Rodgers said: "No, not really, no. We need to ensure that whatever level of the game we are playing at we have everyone working as a team but once we get the penalty he stops working. So he needs to improve on that facet of his game to play in his position, rather than standing on the side of the football field.
"He has contributed because he has got the penalty and scored the goal but that is what he is paid to do. So he needs to keep that efficiency in his game and show that he can affect the team whether he is asked to play from the bench or from the start.
"In this team it is about hard work. In a different country and a different style of football that (scoring the goal) would be all that matters but in this team here it's more than that."
It is not the first time that Rodgers has criticised the £16m striker, whose long-term future has looked in doubt since his first few games Merseyside.
Rodgers suggested earlier in the season that Balotelli was unable to adapt to his pressing system, and although the club ruled out a sale during the January window that was largely because of the realisation that they would not recoup their fee.
Rodgers was more supportive of Balotelli's determination to take the winning penalty in the absence of captain Steven Gerrard. While Gerrard criticised the conduct of the player and suggested he should have stood aside, Rodgers explained that Balotelli was Liverpool's nominated penalty-taker once he took the field.
"Steven and Mario are the top two penalty-takers, but obviously neither of them were on the pitch at the start so you have to nominate someone," said Rodgers.
"Jordan (Henderson) was nominated, but when we had a penalty Mario had come onto the field. So Jordan, being someone with responsibility and trust, gave the penalty to Mario so there was no issue. There was a little bit of a kerfuffle around it because he wanted to make sure Mario was happy to take it, but that was it really.
"I always assign responsibility every single game and I think in my time here that was been the first time this has ever reared its head. We have a whole raft of penalty-takers here who are outstanding. Rickie Lambert has hardly missed a penalty in his career, so there is another taker if he is on the pitch.
"If you are the vice-captain and the captain is on the bench and then he comes on, then it is the etiquette to give him the armband. It is a similar thing with the penalty.
"If Steven is on the field there is no drama. He is the first choice penalty- taker. After that, if Mario is on the field he takes the penalty. His history shows he scored nearly 30 penalties in big games and he is an outstanding penalty-taker.
"But at the start none of them were on, so Jordan was the nominated penalty-taker. Jordan was happy enough to take it, but he gave it to Mario. It is his goal, there is no drama."
There are suggestions that 24-year-old Henderson's hopes of becoming the long-term captain have been undermined by the incident. Rodgers said it was wrong to assume that, because Henderson is vice-captain, he will naturally replace Gerrard.
"People see him as the automatic next captain but that is not necessary the case," said Rodgers. "You have to go steady with him. People want to catapult him into the next Steven Gerrard but he is not that, I have said that before.
"He is an honest boy and team player but Stevie is a totally different player. Jordan is still young. He is not automatically going to be the next captain but he is doing well as vice-captain. Jordan has adapted well." (© Daily Telegraph, London)
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