The Reds boss insists the €20 million signing, who won the competition in 2010, is working hard to ensure he will make an impact in Europe’s elite club competition this season
Brendan Rodgers believes Mario Balotelli’s Champions League experience will stand the Reds in good stead when they face Ludogorets on Tuesday.
The Italy international, who joined the Reds in a €20 million summer deal, won the competition with Inter Milan in the 2009-10 season.
And Rodgers hopes Balotelli’s experience at the highest level will help the club make an immediate impact upon their return to the competition.
“The boy’s only just arrived at the club. He’s working very hard on the training field,” Rodgers told ESPN.
“He was unfortunate that he was ill last week and it was really only on the day of the game that he declared himself fit, which shows that he really wanted to get out and play here at Anfield.
“He’s also experienced as well. He’s arguably one of the most experienced players here in terms of this level of competition and international calibre.
“The best players enjoy that responsibility. I think it’s one he’s relishing. On the training field, he’s going to work hard to accept that responsibility. He knows that he’s been brought in here to do a job, which is to create and score goals – and work hard.”
Rodgers admits “it’s probably been too long” since Liverpool played Champions League football – the Reds last appeared in the competition in 2009 – and is in no doubt as to the impact success in Europe could have on the Anfield support, having spoken to a number of fans in the build-up to their Group B opener.
“It’s only over the last couple of days, when the game becomes close, and the Champions League footballs come out again on the training field, that it brings home how long the club has been away. It’s probably been too long,” the Reds boss added.
“That has been our objective since I came in. The main priority was to bring the club back to this level, because this is a club that really needs to be at this level. It’s one of the great football clubs and this is the elite competition in club football. It feels brilliant to be back.
“And coming off the back of a defeat, it’s even more important for us, because it’s a game that can’t come quickly enough. Last season, we’d have had to wait a week.
“I think the supporters are really going to enjoy it. I’ve had a few of them in my office in the last week or so talking about the group games and everything here, and what they’re looking forward to.
“So from them, I know first-hand that they’re really looking forward to being back, travelling throughout Europe again and that’s why we do it. We do it for the supporters.”