The Mario Balotelli saga, if you can call it that, is over. The Italian has left – officially and permanently for French side Nice! Unless he returns on European duty, he’ll never grace Anfield again.
His two year spell at Liverpool was tumultuous and an utter failure in every sense of the word. Arriving for what seemed a potential £16m bargain in 2014, the Italian scored one Premier League goal in his debut season and was equally as woeful on loan at AC Milan the next.
So tragic was this deal, Liverpool sold him to the French without a transfer fee, and fans actually considered it a success anyone would take him. For a while, it seemed like he’d be stuck at Melwood, irritating the reserves for a season on his £100k-plus wages…
But really, the transfer was a doomed failure from day dot, because Liverpool never wanted him. James Pearce recalls how we systematically moved for a number of forwards, including wildly ambitious options, until realising that the Italian was the only option left…
Pearce wrote in his Echo column, the following:
“Their first choice would certainly have fitted the bill but Alexis Sanchez spurned the Reds advances and headed for Arsenal instead with the Chilean attacker telling Anfield officials his wife wanted the bright lights of the capital.
“After that it was one long tale of woe. The £8.5million release clause of QPR striker Loic Remy was triggered but a move for the Frenchman then collapsed on medical grounds.
“Next on their list was Swansea’s Wilfried Bony but his wage demands meant Liverpool didn’t pursue their interest.
“Suddenly, they were making enquiries about the availability of stellar names such as Monaco’s Radamel Falcao, Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani and Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema.
“Nothing came off. There didn’t seem to be a coherent plan. It was all horribly scattergun.
“With the September 1 deadline looming and Liverpool fast running out of options, Brendan Rodgers was given a choice – Balotelli or free agent Samuel Eto’o. With Eto’o 34 and a long way past his best, Rodgers went for the younger man.”
In reality, Sanchez would have been a mind-bogglingly good signing for Liverpool as he shares Luis Suarez’s energy and battling qualities – but now under Jurgen Klopp, the other names would probably struggle.
Having said that, if we’d have signed a different forward in summer 2014, maybe Brendan Rodgers would still be at the club!