Gerrard on Pirlo's level, insists Balotelli

The striker is in awe of the Liverpool captain’s quality and believes his skill level is comparable with that of his legendary Italy team-mate

Steven Gerrard is every bit as good as Italy legend Andrea Pirlo, according to Liverpool new-boy Mario Balotelli.

Pirlo has enjoyed a prolific twilight to his illustrious career in recent years, winning three consecutive Serie A titles with Juventus, while Gerrard has re-moulded his game from the all-action displays of his youth to occupy a role similar to that of Pirlo at the base of the Liverpool midfield.

And Balotelli, who has had the privilege of playing alongside both men, admits he has been awed by Gerrard’s enduring quality and believes his skill level is comparable with the revered Juventus playmaker.

“Gerrard is an amazing player,” the 24-year-old told Sport. “I had really not seen much of him before this season, apart from for England, but wow. I think of him as being at the same level as Pirlo.

“Vision, technique, but he is powerful as well. Stevie can do anything. It’s going to be very difficult for the team to find another player like him in the future.”

Balotelli has so far struggled to fill the void left by the departed Luis Suarez since arriving at Anfield from AC Milan in a €20 million deal last summer.

He has scored just once in his first eight appearances and admits he is trying to adapt his game in new surroundings.

“I need to get in the box more,” he added. “I don’t do it enough, but it is something I am working to try to do more. I have never been a real, out-and-out striker – I have always been someone who goes around the pitch, you know?

“If it was my choice, I would always go with two strikers. It’s the way I like to play, but Brendan asked me to play as the first striker.

“I understand that when the ball comes from wide on the left or right, I need to be in the box otherwise there might be no-one there at all.”

Balotelli’s poor performances in 2014 have led to new Italy coach Antonio Conte omitting the forward from his two squad announcements.

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