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another for the anfield couch

WHEN a manager takes personal responsibility for the behaviour of his players, he is making a big investment. Brendan Rodgers is big on this kind of thing. Mario Balotelli? No problem. Look what he did for Luis Suarez.

In Rodgers' mythology, he fixed Suarez. He inherited a problem child when he stepped into Kenny Dalglish's shoes but he stuck by his man, got him help and then declared him ready to face the world again.

He didn't actually stand up on a platform and shout "he's cured" but as last season unwound and Suarez matched all-out effort with a flood of goals, that was the message from Anfield and from the manager.

The reality is a bit different. Far from being "cured", the patient was just building up to relapse and on the biggest stage of all.

Worse than that, all the caring and kindness Rodgers had heaped on his man was repaid by Suarez signing on the dotted line for Barcelona as quickly as he could.

From what he said after the World Cup, Suarez always had it in mind to jump ship. Loyalty was never an issue for him.

STANDARDS

So, you'll excuse me if I laugh when I hear Rodgers talk about the standards they set at Liverpool football club and how Balotelli has been made aware of the kind of behaviour which is expected of him.

All Balotelli has to do is take a look at what Suarez got up to and if he uses that as his model, Rodgers is in a world of trouble.

They defended Suarez no matter what he did. Kenny Dalglish, his teammates, the club and then Rodgers. Never mind that his behaviour was about as unacceptable as is humanly possible on a football pitch, they all stood by their man.

They did that for one reason alone. He scored goals. Lots of goals. He scored more than anyone else and if you stuck him in the worst pub team in the world, he would still score goals.

If he was an axe murderer, there's a club out there that would sign him and fans that would welcome him

Everything else is nonsense. Suarez 's crazy temperament was simply a quirk which had to be tolerated once he ran out on the pitch in a Liverpool shirt and did his thing.

I'm not criticising that attitude. I can perfectly understand why Suarez's sins were forgiven. I'd have done it myself. But I just can't stand the kind of po-faced rubbish Rodgers has been using to justify himself and the club.

It's exactly the same with Balotelli. If Rodgers was so keen to uphold the standards he preaches he wouldn't sign a player with such a reputation.

He would apply the rigorous standards so important to Liverpool and decide that it was too big a gamble to take.

Every manager Balotelli has played under says the same thing. His attitude is appalling and this is the one great consistency about him. No club wants to keep him and Cesare Prandelli believes he "lives in another realty".

I've heard some commentators who should know better excusing him, claiming that behind it all, he is just a big kid.

He's a young man who has been rewarded handsomely for doing very little.

From what I can see, he has very little interest in making the most of the talent he has been given.

I see a player who sparks into life sporadically but almost as if he's throwing us a bone and we should all be grateful when he does.

I don't know the lad, obviously enough and maybe buried somewhere within is a likeable kid who needs to be understood but a football club is rarely the right environment to deal with issues like that..

Rodgers has been quick to stress how good a business deal this is and that, at least I can understand.

TAKING STEPS

Presumably he is taking steps to find a good striker he can rely on and Balotelli is a stopgap, a punt which won't cost the club a great deal.

But I know that a few weeks back, Rodgers didn't want or expect to sign Balotelli. Now he thinks it was 'good business'.

I don't know for certain that Rodgers didn't want Balotelli but I suspect it to be the case. Tony Pulis walked out of Selhurst Park over something similar.

Obviously, Rodgers doesn't feel the same way about it. In fact, he has embraced the deal and he's going to give Mario the full treatment and make him a better person.

Good luck with it. He truly will have godlike powers if he can turn Mario Balotelli into a productive, committed footballer and keep the rest of his players happy at the same time.


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