Mino Raiola remains confident Mario Balotelli can be a success at Liverpool, but has asked the club to meet the striker halfway.
The Italian international – who has 33 caps for his country – was a surprise signing for the Reds this summer, when they paid £16million for the former Manchester City ace. During his previous time in England the player regularly courted controversy both on and off the pitch, but he did help the Blues to FA Cup success in 2011 and then the Premier League title the following season.
After a brief spell back in his homeland with Milan during which he scored 26 goals in 43 league games, Balotelli was happy to return to these shores ahead of the current season, but he has yet to impress his new club or their supporters. In fact, the 24-year-old has failed to score a single goal in 12 Premier League appearances, of which only eight have come from a starting position.
Equally damaging, or perhaps even more so, has been his overall performances on the field, which give the impression he would rather be anywhere else. This is particularly revealing as he was seen as the replacement for the talismanic Luis Suarez, who never gave anything less than 100 percent for the Anfield club before he moved to Barcelona for £75million in the summer.
However, Raiola feels it is unfair for his client to be compared with the Uruguayan, or for Liverpool to expect him to ease into the boots of the former Kop favourite who scored 31 times in the league last season. For that reason, the agent has asked the club for a compromise of their expectations, and in return, he is confident Balotelli will be a huge success for Brendan Rodgers.
“People need to know Mario Balotelli is not Luiz Suarez,” he said. “Mario needs to adapt and Liverpool need to adapt. Mario will win this struggle and become better. It is then up to Brendan Rodgers to give him a chance. Mario Balotelli will strive to give the manager what he wants. This move was the right thing to do in his career. He’s still one of the best players in the world.”
Balotelli was left out of the squad for the FA Cup fourth round draw at Bolton Wanderers last weekend, but he has been named on the substitute bench as the Reds travel to Stamford Bridge to face Chelsea in the League Cup semi-final second leg on Tuesday night. However, Rodgers insists the former Internazionale star can still have a future under him at Anfield.
“We’ll give Mario every chance,” said the Northern Irishman. “We brought him here this season to give him every chance to show he can play consistently at the top in a team at this level. It has been a difficult period for him, but he’s a good boy who wants to fight for his opportunity here. I’ve seen some clippings this morning saying that’s him over with, and it’s not the case at all.
“I think I’ve shown here a number of times – players that have been out of the fold for various reasons, if they work hard every day in training and show the intensity and focus then they’ve every chance of getting back in the team – and not only of getting back in the team, but staying in the team. So the opportunity’s there for Mario Balotelli and for every player.”