Balotelli takes a pay cut to join Liverpool
Mario Balotelli will lose £2m a year if he does not shed his bad-boy image at Liverpool after he accepted a significant pay cut to leave AC Milan.
Balotelli arrived in England yesterday to undergo the first stage of a medical held in Manchester and Liverpool this weekend, but he must still convince Brendan Rodgers during face-to-face talks that the £16m transfer should proceed.
Personal terms are agreed, so it is the relationship struck between Rodgers and Balotelli over the next 24 hours that will determine if he signs.
Liverpool have an option to sign Samuel Eto'o if talks with Balotelli break down, but Rodgers and the Anfield hierarchy are encouraged by the eagerness of the player to make financial compromises to move to Liverpool, believing he realises this is his last chance to succeed at one of the world's biggest clubs.
Liverpool offered the Italian around £90,000 a week to return to England, but there are add-ons amounting to an additional £40,000 if the 24-year-old keeps out of trouble.
Balotelli earned around £160,000 a week in Italy, and commanded similar terms while at Manchester City. The fact he willingly accepted a reduced, incentivised salary is a key reason behind the deal pressing ahead over the last few days.
Liverpool have weighted the deal entirely in their favour to recognise the calculated risk in bringing the striker back to the Premier League. He was often fined for misdemeanours at his previous clubs, including training-ground bust-ups and red cards.
The contract is for three years, with Liverpool reserving the option to extend to a fourth. If Balotelli does not abide by the stipulations he will be put up for sale for £10m.
Rodgers would not speak about the player at his weekly press briefing at Melwood yesterday afternoon, but did admit he felt comfortable with the idea of making a "risky" signing.
Although he had stated "categorically" that he would not sign Balotelli just three weeks ago, Rodgers started to reconsider his position hours later.
The catalyst was a bargain price, especially compared to other targets.
Radamal Falcao would have commanded £20m just for a year's loan.
Rodgers was preparing to issue a firm message to Balotelli about his demands to become a Liverpool player, offering him the responsibility of being a senior member of his squad and focal point who could inspire youngsters.
Balotelli will be told he can be a pillar of the Liverpool team.
Rodgers is also backing his man-management skill to get the best out of a player he hopes has put the excesses of his youth behind them.
It will not be the first time he has signed a player despite being warned off by others.
In August 2012 Rodgers refused to sign Daniel Sturridge until he had spent time in his company. When he had permission to do so six months later, he sanctioned the deal.
The Liverpool manager consulted with his senior players, most notably club captain Steven Gerrard, to gauge opinions on Balotelli.
Gerrard was enthusiastic on the basis of Balotelli's footballing ability, which the former England captain recently witnessed first hand at the World Cup in Brazil.
Rodgers decided not to consult Balotelli's former managers - including Chelsea's Jose Mourinho - because he knew the references would not be supportive. He has decided to form his own opinions on the player, who will already have his eye on the No 45 shirt he made his own at previous clubs.
Although Rodgers would not talk about Balotelli until the deal is done - which could take until Monday - he did suggest it was the kind of transfer he would not have entertained earlier in his reign.
"Players and people come in all different shapes and sizes with different traits," Rodgers said. "You can't throw a blanket over everyone. Where I'm at with building the club, if we thought we were bringing in a player we felt was a risk two years ago I couldn't have done it because the environment wasn't created.
"What we have here now is a culture of performance, of people working very hard, an infrastructure that's set up to flourish and if you come into that and you're not that way or that character it would be really difficult for you.
"You've got to weigh it up. This is a club that's not like many others.
"It's a club that is a real strong family football club with values and ethics that run over many years and I will always fight to protect those.
"No matter the player or professional at the club, they will abide by that and that's something that's important.
"Sometimes you have to take a risk with people and a lot of the time if you take that risk you get a reward. We've got a fantastic environment and culture here. Nothing that will ever shake or provoke that in any way. It's something I'll always protect at the club.
"Every player that we assess and look at, character is very important so no player would come in here if I felt it couldn't work. People who know me well will tell you that I look to try to develop the player and the person.
"If I feel that someone cares enough, I will give them everything. As long as they show they care, want to learn and develop, we can give them the opportunity." ( © Daily Telegraph, London)