Wednesday 18 September 2019

Balotelli won't be star attraction at Anfield - Rodgers

Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana and Kenny Dalglish
Mario Balotelli, Adam Lallana and Kenny Dalglish

Chris Bascombe

Brendan Rodgers is ready to unleash Mario Balotelli back on the Premier League against Tottenham this weekend, but the Liverpool manager already fears the Italian striker is the subject of an English obsession.

Rodgers effectively asked 'why always him'? when quizzed about Balotelli ahead of the trip to White Hart Lane tomorrow.

The 24-year-old has been photographed more than Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt since his move to Liverpool, paparazzi permanently camped outside the club's training ground, paying hundreds for access to neighbouring houses to grab fresh images of the striker.

It was inevitable Balotelli would hog the headlines after making his £16m switch, but as he contemplates starting with the forward in north London, Rodgers said: "This won't be the Mario Balotelli show every week. I will tell you that now. He is going to be treated the same as every player here, that's for sure.

"He has a lot of work to do and the star of this team will always be the team. He wants to prove how much he loves this country.

"He left as a young guy a couple of years ago, but he now really appreciates it.

"I have spoken at length to Mario since he has been here. He is definitely a mature boy.

"He is very, very bright. I think he now feels that it is time to show the type of player he is.


"Everyone knows his quality and we have seen it this week in training. We have seen the sheer power and pace and the touch that he has. He wants to score goals and I think he wants to do it consistently now. He has looked great in training. He has trained with AC Milan before he joined us. If I need to put him in, I will. I won't have any fears."

Despite suggestions Balotelli will not be given special attention, there is no doubt a hands-on approach has been taken as a preventive measure against any future problems. Liverpool have ensured, for example, that Balotelli will not live back in Manchester.

"He has already got somewhere to live [over here]. He is a Liverpool player.

"He is not in Manchester. He will be here with us," Rodgers said. "There are different conditions at Liverpool. You have to behave yourself in a certain way. Simple."

The challenge for Rodgers is accommodating Balotelli in the side alongside Daniel Sturridge, who was isolated for much of the game against Manchester City on Monday.

The pair could work together in either a 4-3-3 or diamond formation, Liverpool comfortable with both despite using two strikers last season. Adam Lallana, injured in pre-season, also joins the squad for the first time since his £25m move from Southampton, adding to Rodgers' options.

Rodgers is celebrating a landmark of his own this weekend, the trip to Spurs his 100th game in charge of Liverpool.

If he wins, he will claim his 56th victory over that period.

Only Kenny Dalglish will have won more in his first 100 matches as Liverpool manager.

Rodgers said: "It has flown by. We're now back in the Champions League. It's great for the supporters and it's where Liverpool should be. That was my whole aim when I first came in - to get the club into the Champions League, because I knew if we got to there, we could build from there.

"When I first came in, that first game, it was, can we arrive in the top four?

"Many people would have said we couldn't get there and now we are expected to be challenging the power of Manchester City. That's the challenge."

Rodgers' first Liverpool game two years ago was a Europa League qualifier against FC Gomel, of Belarus.

A solitary Stewart Downing goal gave Rodgers a 1-0 win and he says that game remains the most memorable of his first 100.

"I've still got the Gomel shirt and the bottle of whiskey I was presented," he said. "That was my first competitive game as manager of Liverpool and you always remember the first time for most things.

"That is the game that stands out for me because it was the start of hopefully a great journey." (© Daily Telegraph)

Tottenham v Liverpool, Live, tomorrow, Sky Sports 1, 1.30

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