High hopes for Mario Balotelli at Italian’s new Anfield home
Liverpool believe the 24-year-old has matured and will behave himself
Mario Balotelli: “I think he now feels that it is time to show the type of player he is.” Photograph: John Walton/PA wire.
Brendan Rodgers has no reservations over handing Mario Balotelli an immediate debut at Tottenham Hotspur, insisting the £16 million (€12 million) striker will not become a distraction at Liverpool. “This won’t be the Mario Balotelli show every week,” the Liverpool manager said, twice, at his first pre-match press conference since signing the Italy international.
The 24-year-old has impressed in training since joining Liverpool on Monday and, having had a pre-season with Milan, he is likely to be given a start by Rodgers at White Hart Lane with the team lacking penetration in the 3-1 defeat at Manchester City. “He has looked great and, if I need to put him in, I will,” said Rodgers. “I won’t have any fears about that.”
Liverpool have already found Balotelli a place to live on Merseyside as they look to limit any exuberant behaviour away from the training ground.
The Liverpool manager also said that the soap opera that developed around Balotelli during his time at Manchester City will not be repeated at Anfield. “That won’t be here, that won’t be here, it’s a different style,” he said. “There are different conditions at Liverpool. You have to behave yourself in a certain way. Simple.”
Balotelli admitted earlier this week that he erred in leaving the Premier League in January 2013 and Rodgers believes the Italian is determined to seize his second chance in English football. “He wants to prove how much he loves this country,” the Liverpool manager added. “He left as a young guy a couple of years ago but he now really appreciates it . . . I have spoken at length to Mario since he has been here. . . I think he now feels that it is time to show the type of player he is.”
Rodgers confirmed that Liverpool are more likely to offload players than make a 10th summer signing before the transfer window closes on Monday, with Daniel Agger, Lucas Leiva and Fabio Borini all possible departures.
Meanwhile, Mauricio Pochettino believes Tottenham Hotspur must not let the circus surrounding Balotelli distract them. Tottenham face Brendan Rodgers’ side having secured their place in this season’s Europa League with Thursday’s 5-1 aggregate victory in their qualifier against AEL Limassol and they will be confident of reaching the knock-out stages after they were drawn in a group with Besiktas, Partizan Belgrade and Asteras Tripoli.
It was said that Tottenham’s involvement in the Europa League hurt their form in the Premier League last season.
Pochettino has made a fine start to life as their new manager and has won his first two league matches.
Mental StrengthTottenham showed good mental strength to win at West Ham United on the opening day after losing Kyle Naughton to a red card in the first half and they followed that victory by thrashing Queens Park Rangers 4-0 last weekend.
Tottenham were hugely impressive against QPR. Erik Lamela caught the eye after a difficult first season in England last year and the whole team’s form suggested that Pochettino is already turning them into a far more cohesive unit.
However, it is early days for Pochettino’s side and Tottenham’s credentials will be fully tested by Liverpool, whose 5-0 victory at White Hart Lane last season led to Andre Villas-Boas losing his job. Liverpool also beat Tottenham 4-0 at Anfield but Pochettino believes those results will have no bearing on tomorrow’s match.
Tottenham have indeed looked more balanced this season and there have been signs that Pochettino is succeeding in implementing the high-tempo pressing style he used to good effect at Southampton.