As Christian Benteke edges ever closer to Liverpool, Brendan Rodgers admits Mario Balotelli has an uncertain future at the club.
The Reds have met the £32.5million release clause in Benteke’s Aston Villa contract, and he is expected to rubberstamp his move to Anfield in the coming hours. The Belgian will become the second striker to join this summer, following Danny Ings from Burnley, whilst Roberto Firmino has also been brought in from Hoffenheim to add more threat.
With Daniel Sturridge likely to command a place in the first team once fit, the future looks bleak for Rickie Lambert, Fabio Borini, and of course Balotelli. The latter, who won the Premier League and FA Cup in his previous spell in England with Manchester City, was signed from AC Milan last summer for £16million in a deal Rodgers admitted was a risk.
And the controversial Italian was a huge disappointment for Liverpool, starting just 10 times in the league and scoring only four times in 28 appearances in all competitions. It wasn’t his record in front of goal which upset the supporters most though, as they often complained of his lackadaisical attitude on the pitch and his apparent lack of interest.
The 24-year-old – who has an impressive 13 goals in 33 caps for his country – was tipped to return to Serie A this summer, but there has been little interest in his services thus far. But that doesn’t mean he will in the thick of things for his current club when the new season kicks off, as Rodgers admits he doesn’t know what the future holds for the striker.
“I’m not sure – that’ll be entirely up to Mario,” he replied when asked if Balotelli had a future in the red half of Merseyside. “He’s working very hard to get fit and that’s something we’ll see when the season begins. Mario’s obviously not on the tour with us here, but he’s been training well back at Melwood with a number of other players.”
Lambert, meanwhile, has been linked with a move to West Bromwich Albion where manager Tony Pulis is a keen admirer. The former Southampton forward joined his boyhood club last summer, but scored just twice last season. West Ham United have been credited with an interest in Borini, who cost £10.5million three years ago.