Of the laundry list of concerns many fans had about Mario Balotelli's star studded arrival at Liverpool FC, his affect on team morale was of top import to most. Brendan Rodgers has spent considerable time and energy moulding his squad into one with an incredible collegiality and unshakable team spirit in the last two years, and there were fears that Balotelli's presence would somehow be the undoing of all this hard work.
The manager himself has spoken cagily about the player. While he's obviously excited to have him available as an option on his team sheet, he's also tempered those feelings with the acknowledgement that Balotelli is a known risk given past transfer history and behavioural challenges. Rodgers is convinced he can make it work, and Balotelli's new teammates also seem enthused.
"I’m excited to work with him," said Joe Allen on the subject of the new striker. "He’s a player with massive quality. He has that spontaneous edge to him. He’s going to give us a massive threat. It’s a signing that is another great addition."
While it might be a boilerplate, controversy-avoiding welcome from one player to another, it's a gesture nonetheless. Liverpool's current group seem a down to earth bunch and with Balotelli arriving as the club's first bona fide celebrity in many years, it would be easy for the Italian to feel like an outsider on these terms alone, let alone by virtue of being the new signing. But Balotelli is quickly making friends, and it's part and parcel of what Allen has seen of Liverpool's other new signings.
"All the additions have settled in quickly," the diminutive midfielder confirmed. "That’s been a big positive so far. They’ve brought plenty of pace and they are going to be a big threat for us throughout the year. Our squad has great balance now throughout, strength in depth and there is certainly going to be competition for places in every area. Top players like playing with top players. It brings out the best in people."
The jury is still out as to which kind of players top, top players like playing with — possibly other top, top players — but at the very least it's nice for noted rooster enthusiast wee Joe to welcome a fellow avian enthusiast to the team.