Mario Balotelli has told Brendan Rodgers he wishes to remain at Liverpool rather than return to Italy despite the wretched start to his Anfield career.
The 24-year-old has scored only twice for Liverpool since his €21m move from Milan in August and last started a game for the club on November 8th, a consequence both of injury and Rodgers’ admission that Balotelli is unsuited to the high-intensity pressing game he demands.
Liverpool’s manager reiterated that Balotelli will not be leaving Anfield in the January window, with Juventus the latest Italian club to be linked with the forward. And Rodgers reached that conclusion following talks with a signing he conceded was “a calculated risk” from the start.
“He does want to stay, I think that is the case with him,” Rodgers said. “He does care about doing well for Liverpool and wants to do well but it just hasn’t gone as he would have wanted. This is a club where you will get every opportunity to shine. This is a group that is very close-knit, the spirit is strong and you can work your way into that by working hard and you will get your rewards.”
Balotelli is expected to be on the bench again for Liverpool at Aston Villa, with Raheem Sterling available following a mid-season break in Jamaica.
Liverpool have won their past four away matches in all competitions and on their past three visits to Villa Park. Rodgers believes the “wonderful” pitch at Villa suits his team, in contrast to the surface at Anfield that has drawn frequent complaints from the Liverpool manager and will be relaid this summer.
The Liverpool manager also expressed sympathy for Paul Lambert over the proposed boycott of the start of today's game by frustrated Villa supporters, but insists his side will not be distracted by off-field protests.
“Aston Villa is traditionally a wonderful club but their model has been about bringing in young players. Paul is a very good manager who is doing the best with the resources that he has.” Guardian Service