This time last year, Liverpool were in turmoil. Luis Suarez had gone, following his latest moment of shame at the World Cup, our number one transfer target – Alexis Sanchez – had chosen Arsenal (via Daily Mirror), and Brendan Rodgers was desperately attempting to find an alternative with just days until the start of the new season.
Enter Mario Balotelli. A talented player with an undetermined amount of baggage. Rodgers backed himself to transform the bad-boy forward into the player that Liverpool needed and rolled the dice by paying AC Milan £16m for his services.
It was a gamble. In hindsight, if you’re trying to place clauses in a player’s contract relating to their off the field behaviour – as was rumoured at the time (via The Guardian) – then perhaps you should be looking elsewhere. But we were desperate, and Liverpool fans were quietly hopeful after the player’s promising debut against Tottenham.
Sadly, it was all downhill from there. The Italian – once the vanquisher of England at the World Cup, the star performer of Euro 2012, and the sweetheart of Manchester City’s revolution from mid-table scrappers to Premier League champions – just wasn’t the right fit on Merseyside.
Arguably, Rodgers was never keen on Balotelli – as The Guardian report suggests – but his actions behind the scenes over the course of the following months removed any element of doubt.
This week, The Independent have revealed the string of events that led to the player falling out of favour and, eventually, being banished from the first-team picture all together – made to train with the reserves as he looks for a move away from the club (via The Independent).
According to the report…
Balotelli was first threatened with banishment to the changing rooms in March, during the week after Liverpool’s home defeat to Manchester United. The striker, who was supposed to be among those listening to a team-talk from assistant manager Colin Pascoe, was instead distracted by an injured Jon Flanagan 40-yards away – walking across the training complex – and began to shout at him for ‘no apparent reason’.