There will hopefully be a point in the near future that Mario Balotelli starts making headlines for his exploits on the pitch rather than off. It's not as though he's not been the distraction many promised he'd be; the media has been quick to paint him as such in his first few months on Merseyside, but by all accounts he's been an excellent teammate and a model professional as he seeks to integrate himself into a new squad and new style of playing in what's been lauded as his last chance with a "big" club.
But the goods haven't yet been delivered where it matters, and while improved workrate and commitment that's constantly reaffirmed on social media are nice, the ultimate judgment of the 24-year-old will come in front of goal. Everyone's aware that the Italian striker will need to improve if he's going to make his mark, and that includes Balotelli, who feels he's in the right spot to flourish:
"He is very good, a strong character, and I think that comes out in the way the team plays. I think he can help me improve as a player. He is very open, everybody can talk to him, but first he looks at the person, and second he looks at the footballer. With Brendan, you need to be a good person - you don't have to be, how do you say it, a d***head. I need to get in the box more. I don't do it enough, but it is something I am working to try to do more. I have never been a real, out-and-out striker - I have always been someone who goes around the pitch, you know?
"If it was my choice, I would always go with two strikers. It's the way I like to play, but Brendan asked me to play as the first striker. I understand that when the ball comes from wide on the left or right, I need to be in the box otherwise there might be no-one there at all. I can see already that the Liverpool fans really like me, although I know that maybe they are a little upset because I don't score. I see they appreciate that I am working hard, though, which is nice for me."
We don't have a wealth of evidence to confirm that he'll be a different player with a true strike partner, but the one match we did get with both Balotelli and Daniel Sturridge involved saw instant chemistry developed and plenty of promise going forward as Liverpool breezed past a hapless Spurs side. The duo linked well and managed to play off one another's strengths just enough to leave us wanting more, and with Balotelli left alone by Sturridge's long-standing absence suffered on England duty, that's unfortunately where we've been left.
With this international break proving less punishing, the hope is that all involved get their wish--Balotelli gets a striker with whom he can combine, Sturridge gets to shoulder the responsibility of being the go-to guy up front without being left alone, Rodgers finally gets a healthy squad, and Liverpool supporters finally get another chance to see their club near full-strength.