Is there a modern day footballer that divides opinions like Mario Balotelli? He’s an absolute enigma; some see him as this world class talent whilst the others see him as a bang average player. The Mario Balotelli debate reminds me of the dress that sparked so much heated debate over its colour. Some saw it as white and gold those would be the Mario optimists seeing him as shining ray of hope for Liverpool and that he will finally find a stable home within this team. Whilst those who saw the dress as being black and blue are Balotelli pessimists who see a troubled player, who brings unnecessary baggage and a big grey cloud over Anfield. Whichever side of the fence you sit on I think we can all agree on the dress being hideous and a pointless debate that gained so much pointless coverage by the media. However, the Balotelli debate has many layers and facets to it, so lets unravel it, shall we?
Mario Balotelli has recently had three appearances off the bench and earned a starting place against Besiktas. Let’s not take anything away from him, he impressed and his fans think he’s earned his right to start every game because they feel he has found his form. It seems like a legitimate argument doesn’t it with a couple of goals in the last few weeks? However, the Balotelli pessimists could argue that do those three appearances off the bench in the latter stages of a game really constitute to form? Surely cameo appearances are not the answer to good form? Shouldn’t form be measured on consistent starts where Mario has played a full 90 minutes and not where he’s come off the bench and played a part in the game for that last 10 minutes of the game?
Sure you could argue that Balotelli scored the winning goal against Spurs and what a vital goal that was. Mario was in the right place at the right time but lets not count out the work Ibe and Lallana did to set up Mario to get him off the mark for his 1st Premier League goal in Liverpool colours. It was nothing more than a glorified tap-in and let us not forget the fact that he has only managed to find the back of the net 4 times for Liverpool since joining in the summer. Granted he scored a decisive goal against Spurs but that was through Brendan using him as an impact sub and I struggle to fathom how people’s opinion has altered from that single moment. Lets not forget Mario still has a poor clear-cut chance conversion (missing four out of five so far this season). So Brendan Rodgers is right to use him as and when required.
The Balotelli fan base has always stated that Mario is most effective when playing with a strike partner and we will all see the best of “Super Mario” once Sturridge is back from his lengthy injury. I think its fair to think most of us were banking on this dynamic duo to link up and build a solid partnership given the 60 minutes they played together against Spurs at White Hart Lane for Mario’s debut. But, they’ve failed to form any real partnership and this pairing hasn’t quite worked in the short time it’s had on the pitch since. Like an ensemble the Dress (Balotelli) and the Shoes (Sturridge) don’t quite work well together and it’s left a sour taste in the mouth of the ones who were banking on this to work and we have a select few who now don’t like the shoes. It’s like they’ve erased from their memory that Sturridge is still gaining his fitness. Give him time, the boy will come good, again.
Alas the conundrum of Balotelli’s unstable relationship with the manger, something that the player is all too familiar with. I’ve always considered Rodgers to be an excellent man manager, a father figure to his players like Sterling and Sturridge. I too like most fans found his public contempt towards Balotelli very unsavoury. This very public bashing has split the support into two camps Team Rodgers or Team Balotelli which no fan wants to see at their club. You only have to look at the images that were plastered all over social media where Balotelli was blatantly ignored by Rodgers after he came off against Besiktas, despite being the best of the bad bunch and the other players received warm embraces after the Reds were knocked out on penalties. Different scenario some might argue and an issue is being made out of nothing. But its apparent Brendan Rodgers isn’t a fan of Mario Balotelli, their relationship has holes and the hemming has come undone like a cheap dress you buy at a discount store and you’re stuck with it because Brendan has lost his receipt and there is a strict no returns policy. But you can’t help but wonder why there’s so much animosity for Mario from the Liverpool manager? A question we’ll probably only get an answer to once either of them leaves the club.