Just over three months after being removed from his post as Liverpool FC manager, Brendan Rodgers appeared on Goals on Sunday ahead of his former club's important match against arch rivals Manchester United. Whether you felt the timing was opportune, annoying, or purely coincidental, Rodgers shared his thoughts on a variety of topics related to his old club and some of the more controversial aspects of his time there.
On a day where Liverpool failed to find the back of the net, Rodgers' comments on Liverpool's striker situation under his tenure are a discomforting reminder of the deep challenges the team has had in scoring goals for the last season-and-a-half. Rodgers understandably traced the source of the problems back to the post-World Cup transfer of his star striker.
"The huge blow for us was that we felt we could get Alexis Sanchez," Rodgers said. "We thought he was the like-for-like replacement [for Luis Suarez], we thought he would be perfect for us how he pressed the game, how aggressive he was in his quality. We felt with Luis gone, we would get Sanchez in, it would be a smooth transition into the team - and we would bring in Rickie Lambert alongside him.
"Rickie was going to be an option for us, something else in the game, but it ended up we didn't get him and unfortunately for Rickie the pressure fell upon him. That wasn't the plan. He was someone to come into the game late on, or in the cups, but all of a sudden Sanchez doesn't come in, we think Fabio Borini is gone, Daniel [Sturridge] has been injured and all of a sudden the only striker we have is maybe Rickie Lambert."
Several notable outlets unfairly summarised Rodgers' explanation as the club wanting Sanchez but getting Lambert instead of rather than in addition to the Chilean, suggesting a level of incompetence that Rodgers didn't quite possess no matter how strongly one feels about his managerial performance. But with Rickie Lambert as the main striker going into Liverpool's first Champions League season in years, something had to be done. Enter Mario Balotelli.
"Come the end of summer, when we were struggling to get in the type of player we wanted for that role," Rodgers continued, "the ownership thought this was a player I could maybe develop. He's had issues Mario, he's a wonderful talent and make no mistake. You see him on the training field every day, he's six foot three, he's fast, strong, has the touch.
"They thought this is a £50m player that they can bring in for £16m, and I can maybe develop him how I developed a few of the other players. When the owners want you to go down that route and there are no other options, you give it a go."
Fans were perplexed by the signing for a variety of reasons, and chalked Rodgers' confirmed disinterest in Balotelli from earlier that summer up to managerial misdirection during a very stressful transfer window. Balotelli's season was poor, with the striker spending time injured, underperforming, or playing in a tactical set up not at all suited to his strengths.
Few Liverpool supporters will want to spend too much time thinking about the club's past challenges at striker when there are so many new challenges to contend with this season. Losing Luis Suarez hurt the club immensely, no doubt, but watching Liverpool's other strikers disappear due to injury, underperforming, or falling out of favour with the manager certainly didn't help.