BRENDAN Rodgers will lose everything he worked so hard to build if he does not get rid of Mario Balotelli now. And I mean now. Show him the door today.
I've said on a number of occasions that Balotelli's problems cannot be solved at a football club and I genuinely believe that.
He has personal issues which actually prevent him from being a working professional footballer. Put simply, he doesn't behave like a footballer when he is on a football pitch.
Imagine if an insurance salesman took a job and didn't try to sell anything. The consequences would be swift and harsh. No sales, no job.
Football is far more forgiving than that and Balotelli has been on the receiving end of enormous good will. Several managers have no tried to help him but he refuses to be helped.
At some point, a halt must be called that generally arrives when bad behaviour by one player begins to impact on the rest of the squad.
I have no doubt in my mind that Balotelli has messed up the fragile balance of togetherness which Rodgers developed at Anfield and that was plain to see after a half-baked effort against Real Madrid. He stopped playing. and what he did at half-time was simply unforgivable.
There are different interpretations of his decision to swap shirts with Pepe but it seems obvious to me what he was doing. He was saying to Rodgers and Liverpool that he would prefer to be playing for Madrid. He was looking down his nose at them.
It was an outrageous thing to do and for me, the aftermath should be in no doubt. Call him in and show him to a car waiting to drive him to the airport.
I reckon the rest of the players would be delighted. They might have sympathy for him on a personal level but they know he's a bad one and he won't change.
Alex Ferguson had a motto which is not printable in a family newspaper but the essence of it is that you arrive at a club and immediately set about getting rid of the bad ones.
Ferguson's idea of what a 'bad one' might be is open to debate but when he was the boss at Old Trafford, his word was law and if he felt someone was undermining either himself or his squad, he was sent packing.
It didn't matter how good the player was or how hard it would be to replace him. Out without delay and without a second thought.
Ferguson was right. There is nothing worse than a negative influence in the dressing room. Team spirit is often overblown but it is, nevertheless, a vital component of a successful team.
I know that Dennis Law, Bobby Charlton and George Best didn't hit it off that well on a personal level but once they pulled on a red shirt, they were ultra-professional and bought into the team ethos which Matt Busby wanted and demanded.
Luis Suarez was the same at Anfield. His team mates loved him because of what he could do on a football pitch first and foremost. They also seemed to like him on personal level.
He has some strange character flaw which allows him to do what he does with his teeth but his football is always positive and his attitude is spot on 99.9% of the time. It may be cynical in some ways but because of that, he has been forgiven some serious crimes and is playing with one of the biggest clubs in the world.
Rodgers made a huge mistake when he brought Balotelli into his group. I can understand how, desperate for a striker after Suarez walked away, he came up against a deadline and made a snap decision or at least someone at Anfield made a quick decision.
But at the end of last season, in his heart of hearts, he must have known that he would only hold onto Suarez for a limited period and if he was doing his job right, he would have been chasing a replacement long before the World Cup finals in Brazil.
He didn't do that and couldn't find a credible replacement so he ended up with Balotelli. I would bet that the other lads who came in for a lot of money, Adam Lalana, Dejan Lovren, Ricky Lambert and Markovic have found it very hard to settle in their new surrounds because of the cloud Balotelli has cast over the squad.
Lalana and Markovic came into the game late on for Liverpool on Wednesday night and I saw an improvement. When you think about it, they had eleven on the pitch all willing to work for the first time that night so how could there not be an improvement of sorts?
Rodgers is in a difficult place. His side is falling apart in front of his eyes because of one man and the great team spirit he inspired is fading fast.
There is only way to fix that. Forget about the pop psychology, the idea that he can 'fix' Mario.
Do the smart thing and send him home to Italy. Pay him to go if he has to.