Mario Balotelli's time on the books as a Liverpool player has been, in a word, disappointing. Predictably disappointing, but disappointing nonetheless. His combined 7 goals in 51 appearances over two seasons at Liverpool and on loan to AC Milan doesn't bode well for a continued future on the red half of Merseyside, particularly with a minimum of three strikers ahead of him on the pecking order. With a year left on his contract, and a sizable £90,000 per week pay out, it's obvious to everyone that the club and player need to come to a workable arrangement that can benefit everyone.
Liverpool boss, Jürgen Klopp, was not responsible for creating this problem two years ago, but he is committed to finding a solution. However, that solution does not involve Balotelli nailing down a spot in Klopp's squad, as it is almost impossible to see him become a world class gegenpresser. In typical Klopp honesty and thoughtfulness, he spoke at length about Balotelli during the pre-match presser on Tuesday:
I can talk of Mario because that one is obvious. I heard a lot about him ever since I came here. I actually played a game against him and he scored a goal - a penalty that wasn't a penalty by the way! But since he has been back here, he's been a good guy and I can't say anything different than that. It's not that he's come back and said: ‘who's the boss, I'm the boss, no sorry it's you'. It's not been that at all.
Everything's been good, it's all okay. And now he's here, we will do everything we can to get him fit. Then it will not be a situation for Mario - and I have spoken to him about this. He's not at the stage of his career where he should be battling with four or five other players for one or two positions.
We want Mario to become the player he was before his injury. The talent is still there - no doubt about it. When we have done the crossing, heading and stuff [in training], he's been world class. But this is not a situation where he should be battling with other players like this for one position so it's clear we need a solution.
But in this case it's obvious. It's now time to make decisions and I try to help Mario to get in the best shape he can be in and we will see what happens.
That's about as clear as glass. And it's just as we outside observers assumed: Balotelli is too far behind other Liverpool players to be given a chance, and his playing style doesn't suit Klopp's system. Also, Klopp might still be a bit salty from that penalty.
It speaks volumes to the ever-changing, highly-competitive nature of football. Four years ago Balotelli was named to the Euro Team of the Tournament, now at 25-years-old, he's being surpassed in the depth chart by a freshly rehabilitated Danny Ings. Hopefully Klopp & Co. can get Balotelli in good shape, and at a new club to rebuild his brand as a dangerous goalscorer and world class talent. Barring an incredible turnaround, that won't be at Liverpool.