Balotelli 'very disappointed' by Liverpool drought – Raiola

January 29th, 2015

The Italian has yet to score a Premier League goal for the Reds but despite talk of a return to Italy, the misfiring forward is determined to remain at Anfield

Mario Balotelli is “very disappointed” by his start to life at Liverpool, although he has no intention of leaving the club, according to his representative Mino Raiola.

The Italy international moved to Anfield from AC Milan in a €20 million summer deal but has struggled to hit the ground running on Merseyside, with his faltering form in front of goal leading to reports of personal unrest.

Balotelli has yet to score a Premier League goal in 2014-15 – indeed, he has netted just twice in all competitions – and Raiola admits that the striker has been unhappy with the way his Liverpool career has begun, though he insists that the misfiring forward has no desire to move.

The agent told Gazzetta dello Sport: “The plan is to continue at Anfield. I saw him Monday and told him: ‘You have a 4 year contract and I won’t bring you away. Or you leave Liverpool at 60-70 million, and I won my bet, or you’ll die there.’

“It’s the first time I make a speech like that to a player. I’ve seen him quiet, changed, different than Milan.

“Very disappointed with himself, too. He’s going through a bad time like he never had. In Liverpool he hasn’t his spaces: if you don’t make things as they want, you stay out. Then he was broken for eight weeks, he lost the rhythm.”

Balotelli has often been singled out for criticism this season but Raiola claims that the 24-year-old is simply the victim of “injustice” and that he is insecure.

“Of all the players I knew I’ve never met one forced to face the injustices suffered by Mario,” he added. “People do not know him, the truth is that Mario is an insecure boy, and due to his insecurity maybe he does stupid things.

“AC Milan needed a leader. Give the ball to Mario, he scores a goal, everyone is happy. But he is not a leader, and it is also wrong to ask him to be a leder.

“There are very strong players who have no leadership, others less strong but which have leadership.”

Balotelli is happy at Liverpool but we'll see in the summer – Raiola

January 27th, 2015

The Italy striker has struggled for game time in recent weeks and Reds boss Brendan Rodgers suggested he currently has no part to play in his in-form line-up

Mario Balotelli is happy at Liverpool despite being left out of the squad to face Bolton on Saturday, according to the player’s agent.

Balotelli has struggled for playing time in recent weeks, having not started a match for the Reds since November 8, and manager Brendan Rodgers admitted at the weekend that the striker will have to change his style in order to work his way back into the line-up.

The Reds are unbeaten since the 3-0 defeat to Manchester United on December 14, and Rodgers’ candid declarations suggested the upturn in fortunes is not unrelated to Balotelli’s absence.

But while agent Mino Raiola admits that while his client does not see eye-to-eye with his manager on everything, he is keen to make things work at Anfield.

“Yes, he is happy at Liverpool,” he told Sky Sports. ”Nobody is happy to be left out but he reacted in a professional way.

“He was injured and moved to a big club. Mario will win this struggle and become better. It is then up to Brendan Rodgers to give him a chance.

“They’re talking and it is a good relationship. Mario likes him. They do not agree on everything. It is technical reasons they don’t agree on but Mario 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 in the world.”

Raiola also refuted speculation that Balotelli is keen to move elsewhere in the January transfer window, but did hint that the pair will reevaluate the situation at the end of the season.

“We didn’t ask to leave,” he said. “It is too early, with the injury, to say we leave in January. There are no big problems. He’s adapting to a new style that the manager wants. We’ll see in the summer.”

Rodgers: Balotelli's Liverpool career is not over

January 26th, 2015

The manager admitted after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Bolton that the striker had been overlooked for selection, but insists a move away is not a foregone conclusion

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has defended striker Mario Balotelli and insisted “it is not the case” that his Anfield career is over.

Rodgers admitted after Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Bolton in the FA Cup that he had overlooked the striker following below-par displays training and urged the summer signing to step up if he wanted to be involved.

While the Reds boss accepts his striker has struggled to impress since his move to Anfield, he is not prepared to give up on the Italy international yet.

“It’s been a difficult period for Mario but he wants to fight for an opportunity here,” he told reporters. “The opportunity is there.”

In more positive news, Daniel Sturridge returned to full training with the Liverpool squad on Sunday as his return to first-team action for the first time since August draws near.

Liverpool face Chelsea in the second leg of their League Cup semi-final on Tuesday, with some suggesting Sturridge could be involved but Rodgers is not looking to rush the striker back.

“We’ll see how it is today,” Rodgers said. “He trained very, very well yesterday. That was as comfortable as he’s looked, he looked back to normal.

“We won’t risk it that’s for sure, he’s been out for a long time and we need to make sure he’s ready.”

Chelsea suffered a shock 4-2 home loss to Bradford City in the FA Cup on Saturday, but Rodgers does not feel that result will serve to help his side though does expect “trepidation” from Jose Mourinho & Co.

“Chelsea had a tough result at weekend but they are an outstanding team. They are dangerous,” he said.

“Confidence is high. We certainly won’t underestimate Chelsea, but our form and resilience is getting better.”

When asked if Liverpool were set to do any business in the remainder of the January transfer window, Rodgers responded: “I don’t think so. Unless something dramatic happens we will go with what we have.”

Balotelli snub means it's Sturridge or bust for Liverpool's season

January 25th, 2015

COMMENT: Brendan Rodgers again preferred to play with no recognised striker against Bolton and will select Sturridge before picking the Italian

Brendan Rodgers does not want Mario Balotelli in his team. He will not pick Balotelli because he does not believe his presence benefits Liverpool in their current structure. Neither does he believe that Balotelli works hard enough on the training ground or out on the pitch.

Instead he would rather play with no forwards at all, like against Bolton Wanderers in the goalless FA Cup fourth round tie on Saturday, and gamble on the fitness of Daniel Sturridge who could return on Tuesday against Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final second leg.

“It doesn’t matter who the player is, what price he came with or what he was bought for,” Rodgers said on Saturday. “It’s about the team, and if you want to contribute then you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad for a matchday.”

Rodgers turned the post-match press conference cannons at Balotelli, a player who was not even selected for the matchday squad. It was astonishing in the sense that the Reds boss let the world in on what he really believes about his €20 million forward. Managers are usually encouraging their players in the press and giving them confidence. Not so with Rodgers on Balotelli. He pointed out all that the Champions League winner could not do. As a method of coaxing the best, psychologically, from his man it was curious.

He could, and did, have Balotelli fit and ready to play but will continue to shun him. Instead he will put all his trust in Sturridge. It would not be a surprise to see Sturridge play every game from here on in for Liverpool while Balotelli plays none. The Merseysiders have had a gaping striking problem all season long due to the sale of Luis Suarez and the injuries suffered by Sturridge. Although the England man has been out of action since August, he is a safe bet to lead the line before Balotelli.

Liverpool played well enough to win the match on Saturday against Bolton but came up against a goalkeeper in Adam Bogdan who had the game of his life. Without exaggeration, he made four world class saves and plenty more besides to keep the match scoreless.

Rodgers picked holes in his side’s finishing ability once the game was over but there is no doubt that the re-introduction of Sturridge would sharpen the attack. Not only would the former Chelsea forward’s return come as a boost at this stage of the season, it is simply a necessity that he comes in and picks up where he left off. 

“He starts training tomorrow with the team,” Rodgers revealed as much to the press as to Balotelli. “He’s in his final rehabilitation with the medical and sports science guys today.

“He joins in with the group now and it’s just about getting football fitness and game fitness. We’ll see how he is for Tuesday.

“If he’s not ready for Tuesday then he’ll be back, for sure, against West Ham next weekend.”

*Premier League games in 2014-15

That Sturridge would be thrust into such a high-stakes fixture on two days’ training while Balotelli is forced to use it for study into the reasons why he isn’t being played speaks much about what Rodgers has in mind for the rest of the season and beyond. It is Sturridge upon whom he is pinning Liverpool’s hopes.

Moreover, he would rather play no striker against Bolton than play Balotelli. Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini started on the bench with Philippe Coutinho, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana taking it in turns to rotate around a nominal centre forward position.

There is no doubt that Liverpool are playing better since switching to a three-man defence and a wing-back system. He explained how vital it was, however, that the work ethic from the front players remained high. The mid-season break at home in Jamaica offered to Sterling illustrates just how hard these players are working.

The simple matter of the fact is that the manager does not trust Balotelli. Along with that, with solidity now finally assured, Liverpool have an Anfield problem. They have only won one game there in their last six. Their suspect defending has been addressed and now it’s time to realign the forwards.

“He probably sees the real Liverpool over these last six or seven weeks and he understands just what is required to get into the team,” said Rodgers.

“We suffered as a team in the first four odd months of the season or so. We can’t go back to that. There’s been a change structurally in the team to allow that pressing, that creativity to come back.”

The fixture list is piling high for Liverpool. There is the Capital One Cup, an FA Cup fourth round replay, travel to and from Istanbul for a Europa League tie against Besiktas and an intensive Premier League programme to contend with.
It speaks volumes that Rodgers would trust a forward who has not played since the opening month of the season to do this intensive pressing and not one who he admitted is fit and ready for selection. 

“You see the pressing in our game, the aggression in our game. If you can’t do that, then you’re not going to be part of what this team is trying to achieve,” said Rodgers.

It does not bode well for the future of Mario Balotelli at Anfield. Bigger managers than Rodgers have washed their hands of the Italian and he might well be joining a list which now includes Jose Mourinho, Roberto Mancini and Antonio Conte.

Rodgers needs all the help he can get. Just not from Mario Balotelli.

Rodgers: Balotelli is fit, I just won't pick him

January 24th, 2015

The Liverpool boss reveals he had an hour-long chat with the Italy striker over his role in the team, and insists he will have to work hard to fit into the current style of play

Brendan Rodgers admits he overlooked Mario Balotelli for Liverpool’s FA Cup fourth round 0-0 draw with Bolton Wanderers at Anfield because the Italian forward is not working well enough in training and does not fit in with his current style of play.

Balotelli was “not well” in the past week and, as such, was not available to be selected for the League Cup semi-final first-leg against Chelsea on Tuesday.

However, he was fit for selection for Saturday’s match but Rodgers opted against bringing him in despite the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge due to injury. 

“I’ve had a chat with Mario,” Rodgers told the press. “He knows exactly what’s required to be in this squad before he can be in the team. He is available, like the rest of the team. We had about an hour or so yesterday chatting. I think he understands where it’s at. 

“He was out for a week or so, not well, obviously wasn’t available for selection in midweek and last week. It’s difficult for him. He knows now the level of what this team is at. You see the pressing in our game, the aggression in our game. If you can’t do that, then you’re not going to be part of what this team is trying to achieve.”

Rodgers says Balotelli has learned a lot about what is expected of him at Anfield due to the team’s recent performances, and will return to the matchday squad when he demonstrates a greater work ethic in training. 

“He probably sees the real Liverpool over these last six or seven weeks and he understands just what is required to get into the team. 

“Of course, I’m judging it every day in training as well. Mario is exactly the same as every other player. There’s no special treatment for anyone. Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert, they’re working tirelessly for me in training and when they go on they’ve contributed. I have to judge it on that. 

“We suffered as a team in the first four odd months of the season or so. We can’t go back to that. There’s been a change structurally in the team to allow that pressing, that creativity to come back. 

“He is a player that will work very hard now to get back in. It doesn’t matter who the player is, what price he came with or what he was bought for. It’s a collective team, it’s about the team, and if you want to contribute then you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad for a matchday. 

“He was fully understanding. He has seen the level of our performance against Chelsea and in fairness to him he actually said that was a struggle for him in terms of how he would play the game because he’s naturally a box player, really. But there’s much more asked of this team, the intensity of the team.”

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