Balotelli was not our first choice – Rodgers

The Liverpool boss felt that his side were light on options in attack after losing Luis Suarez and, with time running out in the transfer window, took a gamble on the Italian

Brendan Rodgers admits that Mario Balotelli was not Liverpool’s first choice to fill the void left by Luis Suarez but will do everything possible to “make it work”.

The Italy international, a €20 million summer signing from AC Milan, has been criticised for his profligacy since moving to Anfield, having struck just once against Ludogorets, and was singled out by his manager after Wednesday’s Champions League defeat by Basel.

But Rodgers has defended Liverpool’s pursuit of the controversial 24-year-old, explaining that the Merseysiders were left with no viable option other than to sign the former Manchester City striker.

“I always said it was about availability and affordability of players,” the Northern Irishman told reporters. “Mario was the one right at the very end who was available for that.

“I said when he came in that it was a calculated risk and it’s something I have to work on to try to make it work for the team.

“You assess what the group had. We brought in Rickie Lambert as someone who can play some games for us and come off the bench and be an impact player for us in certain games.

“Daniel [Sturridge] is a top Premier League player but has shown during his time here that he does get injuries so we needed to prepare for that. Obviously Fabio Borini looked like he was on his way out [to Sunderland].

“We had attempts for other strikers that didn’t materialise for one reason or another, so it left us right at the end of the window with a decision on whether just to go with what we had, when experience told us we were too light, or take a calculated risk on a player who has quality, and then could we get it out of him consistently?”
Liverpool netted €88m from Suarez’s move to Barcelona, with the Reds bringing in nine players over the summer as they reshaped their squad in the Uruguayan’s absence, but Rodgers rejects suggestions that the club’s strategy for dealing with his departure was flawed.

“I wouldn’t say that,” he continued. “There are very few players who can replace Suarez … actually, there are no players who can replace Suarez.

“When you look at the availability of other players during the summer, it was difficult for us.

“It’s no good now, I know, but we took a player in Divock Origi who we believe will be world class and we’ll get him [from Lille] next summer.

“He is a top player. He has everything – the speed, the profile and he can play now – but our deal was that we couldn’t bring him in now.

“That was unfortunate because he can run in behind, he can keep the ball and he can press but that was the deal.

“There were very few who are top class who were available and Mario Balotelli was a calculated gamble that we had to try to work with.”

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