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Can Brendan'smagic touch fixbad boy Mario?

THERE was a moment or two last season when Brendan Rodgers could have gone the whole hog and thrown on a set of flowing robes, grown out his beard and stepped onto the Mersey for a stroll.

Tagged by the Kop as the new messiah, he seemed to take the idea to heart and his breathy pronouncements on all things Liverpool soon took on a theme. History, tradition, respect, he trotted out the keywords in reverential tones, always saying the right thing.

Many Liverpool supporters felt that he was maintaining some consistency and upholding all of those fundamentals when he stated categorically a few weeks back that Mario Balotelli wouldn't set foot in Anfield.

So imagine how they felt when the man himself showed up at the Etihad with a cheesy grin, a new contract and wearing a woolly hat which definitely wasn't red. He was in both dressing rooms and on the bus home.

Rodgers is now signed up to his own myth. He has become the Premier League's best known part-time psychological counsellor. He thinks he's a horse whisperer, only with footballers.

"There is no doubting Mario's ability. He is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level," he said yesterday.

"I am looking forward to working with him and helping him learn more, improve and progress as a player. I'm sure the supporters will make him feel very welcome."

They will if he scores. They will if he doesn't pout and preen. They will make him feel like the best player in the world if he behaves and does his job.

LURID

But does anyone think he will? Some believe that this has been foisted on Balotelli by John Henry and bean counters but it's hardly likely that old Bostonians who sweated buckets when Luis Suarez dragged them into a racism controversy would plunge headline towards the only man in Europe capable of creating even more lurid headlines than a set of Uruguayan gnashers?

No this is all Brendan's work. He thinks he can fix Mario like he fixed Luis.

That's Luis Suarez, the lad who was on his way to Barcelona before anyone at Anfield knew, another one of Rodgers' projects.

Frying pan and fire spring to mind. At least Suarez scored goals in between starters.


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