On the pitch for Liverpool, Mario Balotelli appeared to apply himself. Not perhaps the hardest worker in the side or an all-action sort, he nevertheless put in a decent shift, looking to make himself available to teammates and tracking back to help the defence.
The bigger problem often looked not so much his work-rate but his reading of the game, and that his natural instincts clashed with what the rest of the team and manager Brendan Rodgers needed him to do. And there were still, as there always are with Balotelli, whispers about his attitude.
In training, it was said, he still didn’t apply himself. He was too much the joker and lacked the determination and single-mindedness required of a professional athlete. Alberto Moreno, though, thinks he’s been unfairly maligned in some quarters and that Balotelli has been a good teammate.
"I think he’s been unfairly maligned," said the Spanish left back, who is himself reportedly out of favour with manager Brendan Rodgers and needing to buckle down if he’s to stay at the club. "He’s a very relaxed, never bothers anyone. He could be a great striker as he’s got all the tools."
That relaxed attitude hasn’t sat well with some, and recent weeks have seen club-connected journalists pointing to it as the reason he didn’t work out at Liverpool and now needs to be sold, though the sudden need to explain Balotelli’s failure—to make it not Rodgers’ fault—is hardly likely to improve his resale value.
And even if it’s all true, it’s hard for anyone at the club to act surprised. They all knew what they were getting going in, and if they were going to spend £16M and significant wages on Mario Balotelli, the onus was as much on the club and Rodgers to make it work as on the player. They didn’t appear to try.
"Things haven’t gone well for him here, and he’s really struggled to score goals," added Moreno. "But I wish him all the best if he ends up leaving because he’s a great lad."
- Enrique Ponders Life, The Universe, Champions League, and Benteke
- Firmino Makes UEFA Short List for Player of the Year
- Liverpool FC Transfer Rumours: Sakho to Roma
- Moreno Still Believes He Can Achieve "Beautiful Things" with Liverpool
- Brazil Legend Says Liverpool Have Found Their Gerrard Replacement