At the start of last August, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers ‘categorically’ ruled out signing then-AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, while many football watchers wondered why the link had even been floated.
The former Manchester City star has always been thought of as a skilful target man capable of finding the net from all sorts of angles, with 26 goals racked up in just 43 Serie A matches with the Rossoneri, and 19 all told for club and country during 2013/14.
However, like his friend and former Inter teammate Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Balotelli is an individualist who would rather hoick the ball miles wide from 30 yards out than pass to a colleague in a better position.
Indeed, Zlatan’s awkward season at Barcelona half a decade ago should have provided Rodgers with a cautionary tale before going after Balo.
To be fair, Barca retained La Liga in 2009/10 and the Swedish phenomenon scored 16 goals in 29 top-flight appearances, but after Pep Guardiola and co had secured an unprecedented treble in the previous campaign, their 20th title win rang out somewhat hollow.
In his autobiography, Zlatan revealed that Guardiola didn’t speak to him from February until the end of the campaign, when he was sold. This was a Plan B that did not quite work out, but at least the Catalans got a few goals for their reported €69.5m outlay.
Balotelli didn’t cost anywhere near as much at around €20m, but he has been largely useless, taking 13 Premier League appearances to bag his first goal and firing just four all told in 23 matches.
The good news for Liverpool is it seems Rodgers has learned his lesson and will focus on making Plan A (that is, the Reds’ slick passing and pressing game) unstoppable, as opposed to worrying about an alternative strategy he seems unwilling and incapable of implementing.
Villarreal’s Argentine hotshot Luciano Vietto, dubbed the new Sergio Aguero, is thought to be high on the list of Anfield summer targets after the 21-year-old’s impressive start to life in La Liga, as stated on these pages not too long ago.
Vietto may prove the Luis Suarez-type Liverpool desperately needed up front following the Uruguayan’s departure for the Camp Nou eight months ago.
Meanwhile, rumours abound that Balotelli is considering a move to Orlando City in the MLS ahead of next season. Granted, he has been pretty bad under Rodgers, but 24 seems a little early for semi-retirement.