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mariomove doesn'tadd up

I'M baffled by Mario Balotelli. Baffled by the man, baffled by Liverpool's decision to sign him and baffled by what can only be described as a Brendan Rodgers u-turn.

If Balotelli was the last player available to buy in the world and I had unlimited money, I'd say thanks, but no thanks.

None of this adds up. Just a few weeks back, Rodgers was comfortable enough in his dealings in the transfer market to state in a definitive way that Balotelli would not be coming to Anfield.

He chose his words carefully and obviously believed that his efforts to replace Luis Suarez (below) were going well; that he had no need to consider Balotelli.

Something has changed radically in between then and now. Either Rodgers has decided that he has no choice because he can't sign anyone else or he has no choice because the decision has been taken out of his hands.

The second of those possibilities is almost too worrying to contemplate. I think everyone felt that Rodgers increased his power at Anfield after a fantastic season and that John Henry and the club's owners would be happy to trust his judgement.

If Balotelli has been signed without his assent, Rodgers is in a very difficult place and his employers have taken a monumental risk on the loosest of loose cannons.

Wind back to where this all started. Suarez said a few weeks back that his biggest fear after the World Cup biting incident was that it would put his move to Barcelona at risk.

So Suarez appears to have known or at the very least, wanted a move to Barca and the moment he leaned into Giogio Chiellini and bit him, Rodgers too must have realised, even if he had no prior knowledge, that his best player would be leaving.

Six weeks have passed and in that time, Liverpool have been linked with all sorts of strikers but the bottom line is that they haven't signed one. It takes time to land a big fish. Jose Mourinho has probably been working on the Diego Costa move since last year.

Rodgers found himself without any power up front in his first transfer window when he left Andy Carroll at Upton Park and tried but failed to sign Clint Dempsey.

His spending tops the list in the Premier League so far this summer and yet he suddenly finds himself seriously undergunned for the domestic trophy hunt and, of course, the Champions League.

Contrast his attacking options for tonight's huge game against Manchester City, a club Balotelli took a wrecking ball to and the gap is clear.

But to fill it with the player Manchester City couldn't wait to sell and who has been a problem at every club he has visited seems like madness.

I've heard plenty of names tossed around in the last few days, lads who caused grief but were worth the extra investment of time and energy because they were special players and I have to say, I can't find a place for Balotelli among them.

Suarez himself was a ticking time bomb in terms of temperament but he gave everything he had to win football games. Absolutely everything. He lives to win.

Eric Cantona was a strange fish, moody in the extreme but astonishing and never less than committed.

I don't see the same from Balotelli. I'm sure there were moments back in the day when Alex Ferguson looked at Roy Keane's latest off or onfield escapade and rolled his eyes but I guarantee you he never once doubted his commitment.

Many great players walk a tightrope. Great talent is rare and players are human beings but fans and team mates, even managers, forgive a lot if the deal is sealed on the pitch.

This lad picks and chooses when he wants to play. Every so often, he will decide that he's in the mood and his talent emerges. But they are rare glimpses of genius.

I worry when someone like Jose Mourinho says he is unmanageable and I worry when I remember images of Roberto Mancini and Balotelli grappling in full public view during a Manchester City training session.

And I really worry when I think about the base Rodgers has built at Anfield.

There is a bond between the players which was strong before they went on the run which almost delivered the title and it will have been welded tight by the experience they had in the last few weeks of the season. As I've said, players will forgive a great deal if a troubled character in the dressing room can deliver on the pitch but nobody is happy if someone is being indulged.

Imagine how someone like Stevie Gerrard, well-tuned in to what went on at Manchester City when Balotelli was there through his mates in the game, would feel if successful culmination of a great career with a squad he finally believes can win a title hangs on the mood of a 24-year-old.

Nobody can tell quicker whether a player is putting it in or not than one of his team-mates and if Balotelli behaves around the squad the way his reputation suggests he will, I can't see anything but a bad end to this.

In the meantime, Rodgers and the players must try to keep themselves fully focused on a game which, under normal circumstances, would be a big opportunity to make a big statement about the season ahead.

I don't buy for one second the idea that Manchester City have an issue with motivation because they are the title holders and that most of their big names are tired because they were in Brazil.

They beat Newcastle easily enough in the end and I pay no heed to the Community Shield result against Arsenal. Manuel Pellegrini has the team to beat and he has added a few more cogs to his machine.

That's the way a title-winning team operates. It's the way Liverpool worked when I was there. We bought a few diamonds during the summer and worked them into the group.

But I can never remember anyone who came to the club with a question mark over their willingness to actually play.

Put it this way, Southampton paid £12m for Shane Long and in return, they got a player who will try with everything he has to score goals. If he doesn't score, which is often the case, he will help create or at the very least make a nuisance of himself.

For some time now, Long has promised a great deal without delivering the 20-goal season we would all like to see from him but I would rate him a better gamble than a guy who at 24 is been talked about as if this is a make or break move for him.

That's very young to be dining in the last chance saloon.


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