To say that Mario Balotelli’s performances at Liverpool haven't met expectations would be an understatement. He arrived last summer for £16M, surrounded by talk about this move being the 24-year-old’s last best chance to come good on his potential. Since then, it’s been mostly injuries and time spent on the bench for the Italian, who has yet to score a league goal for his new club.
In total, Balotelli has started eleven times—eight in the league and three more in the Champions League. He’s made six further appearances off the bench and has scored two goals, once in the Champions League and once in the League Cup. He’s taken 61 shots, giving him a dire 3.27% finishing rate. He can’t be faulted for his effort when on the pitch, but his willingness to run isn’t nearly enough to call him a successful signing.
The question, then, is what comes next. He is clearly out of favour at Liverpool, where manager Brendan Rodgers passed on the opportunity to start him against League Two’s AFC Wimbledon this week. With Daniel Sturridge set to return soon, there’s every chance Balotelli spends the rest of the season frozen out of the starting eleven. Enter Olympiacos, who according to Tuttomercatoweb are pushing hard for a loan deal.
They believe the Greek club have already offered a €2.5 loan fee to take the struggling striker on for the rest of the season, and that Liverpool were open to the proposal but that Balotelli turned it down. Now, if the rumour is to be believed, Olympiacos have returned, offering a €1M bonus for Balotelli himself if he takes the deal, and though the player remains skeptical, it may be that a six-month loan is now a real possibility.
On the surface, it doesn’t seen the worst option for all parties. Balotelli would get regular minutes to find his form away from the limelight and a hefty bonus for his troubles, while from Liverpool’s standpoint it would at least help to protect his resale value. If he really isn’t favoured by Brendan Rodgers, then keeping his value high and earning a loan fee in the meantime would be a smart move by the club.
If he did leave on loan, though, it would make it even more important for Liverpool to secure the services of another striker—one who does fit Rodgers’ approach to high pressing and fluid attacking football. Given the club reportedly were open to Olypiacos’ loan offer, it may even be that such a striker has been targeted, though it then becomes a question of whether any potential incoming depends on Balotelli leaving.