Sport Soccer

Tuesday 23 January 2018

Last chance for Balotelli - Rodgers

Mario Balotelli, right, was in Manchester to watch his new team play
Mario Balotelli, right, was in Manchester to watch his new team play

Manager Brendan Rodgers claims Liverpool have offered Mario Balotelli his "last chance" to thrive at the top level.

The Reds completed a £16million deal to sign the maverick former Manchester City striker from AC Milan on Monday.

The 24-year-old, who has also played for Inter Milan, has already had an eventful career, having mixed occasional brilliance with plenty of controversy on and off the field.

Rodgers initially joked when asked what Balotelli will bring to Anfield, telling Sky Sports 1: "Trouble!"

But he added: "I look at the talent - he's a wonderful talent.

"There's no doubt he's at a stage in his career that this might be the last chance at a big club because he needs to settle down and show maturity.

"And I've worked with those type of players all my life, from when I worked in youth coaching.

"I never had the finished article and that's how - at times - I like it.

"He's got huge potential, but needs to come to Liverpool and be consistent because if he can do that we've got one hell of a player."

Rodgers' words echo similar remarks he made about Daniel Sturridge when he signed him from Chelsea in in January 2013.

Sturridge has since repaid the faith of Rodgers, scoring 36 goals in his first 50 appearances for the Reds.

Rodgers believes Balotelli is intelligent enough to realise the opportunity he has at Anfield and will settle well, moving away from the problems that have hampered his career to date.

He said: "Most players I like to sit down and look in the eye and see the honesty and the humility that they have and I think that when I sat with him and I spent a bit of time with him, about three-and-a-half hours.

"You know it's a massive club and it's a different club, it's a family club with strong family values and as I said behaviour is very important here.

"It was also about the football element. We can help improve his game, improve the consistency in his game and he was ready to take on that challenge.

"He's a very bright boy. He was very clever. He's a really good guy and I'm excited to work with him because that's the type of talent I like to work with - someone that we can improve both as a football player and a person."

Balotelli himself has said he is looking forward to the challenge and admits it was a mistake to have left England in the first place.

The Italy international was sold by City to Milan in a £19million deal 19 months ago.

Balotelli told the club's website: "I'm happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake. I wanted to go to Italy but I realised it was a mistake.

"English football is generally better. English football is beautiful."

He added: "To play here for Liverpool excites me, but if you're an opponent it's difficult.

"Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England. The football is very good here. It's a great team with young players, and that's why I came here."

Liverpool are returning to the Champions League this season after a four-year absence and Balotelli - a previous winner with Inter - has already spoken of bold ambitions to triumph again.

He said: "I always start a competition wanting to win it. We will see. I want to win another Champions League for sure, because the Champions League wasn't all mine, I was in a team. I want to take this team to the Champions League."

Balotelli was in the stands at the Etihad Stadium on Monday night to watch his new team-mates take on his former club City in the Barclays Premier League. He was pictured sitting next to injured midfielder and fellow new signing Adam Lallana.

Press Association Sport understands it was planned he would meet those playing in the match before kick-off in the dressing room.

Press Association

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