Liverpool: Balotelli's A P***-Taking Maverick & I Love Him
Mario Balotelli is mental. He sets of fireworks in his house, pops out for a pint of milk and returns with a circus. He goes through models, porn stars and wannabes with a wanton abandon that would make Caligula blush. He’s also very, very good at football.
When it was clear that Suarez was off, I reckoned that we’d go for a 23-24 year old striker with bags of potential. We did it with Torres and then Suarez, and despite being linked with Falcao and Cavani I can’t see a move of that magnitude happening until we prove ourselves as a consistent Champions League club.
I never, for a moment though, thought that player would be Balotelli but I’m glad that it might be. When he left England after one wrestling match too far with the preening Roberto Mancini I missed him straight away. And not just for the antics; the handing out money to homeless, the winding Rio Ferdinand up, but for what he could do on a pitch and the manner in which he went about it.
Stoichkov, Maradona, Fowler, Romario: I just can’t help love a flawed footballer who makes the game look easy. Not a player who will bend a game to his iron will, but a maverick who will take the absolute p*** out of someone and score a blinder. We all complain about a lack of characters in the game, of identikit players rolled out of academies in test tubes. We certainly know that isn't the case with Balo.
Despite it being the first game of the season, there was a slight air of predictability about our attacking play against Southampton. Of course, we haven’t seen Lazar and Lallana yet, but the two pronged trident of Sterling and Sturridge suffered without the third marauding wheel of Suarez.
And that’s why I’d love Balotelli. He’s plainly not Suarez, but if Rodgers can use his increasingly impressive man management skills to get somewhere approaching the best out of Balotelli it will be a masterstroke. He’s 24, with 88 goals in 220 odd club matches and 13 in 33 for Italy, stats which compare favourably with Sturridge.
He’s always been loved by teammates – Andrea Pirlo loves him, for Christ’s sake – he’s played in title winning teams, he thinks Mourinho is a berk and, let’s not forget, he once bought a trampoline on a routine trip to the corner shop.
On a serious note, he’s often spoke about how his adoption as a youngster has affected him, and it’s clear he just needs to be loved.
Not indulged and bullied, not racially abused in his home country - just loved. Considering the waifs and strays we’ve had over the years, allied to Rodgers’ kinship with young footballers, we could have a perfect storm.
It could also quite easily be an earth-scorching hurricane. But it will be fun while it lasts.