While many of the messages from former players about Mario Balotelli of late have been messages of support, not all of them have been. Some have been critical of Balotelli, and in the case of Ray Houghton, the comments almost required a fire extinguisher.
Houghton declared that Balotelli "is not a ‘team player’ and has failed to adapt," and expressed significant doubts that he would ever perform well for Liverpool, even when Daniel Sturridge is back in action and Raheem Sterling is in better form.
"Balotelli has to adapt his game to suit Sturridge and Sterling, but I fear that won’t happen. The frustrating thing is that it can work.
"The best performance of the season was the 3-0 win at Tottenham on Balotelli’s debut in August. He linked up well with Sturridge, with Sterling playing at the head of a diamond. There was pace and power similar to last season.
"Will we see more of that when Sturridge returns? I hope so, but Balotelli is not delivering on a regular basis."
-Source: The Liverpool Echo
While Houghton is certainly correct in his assessment that Balotelli hasn't seemed to adapt to Liverpool well, he added a specific criticism that doesn't quite track. "He needs to come short more often and get involved in the build-up, but he isn’t doing that," Houghton stated. "This is not a big surprise, he was the same at Manchester City and both Milan clubs.
The thing is though, Balotelli did do that in his past, he just wasn't very good at it. Eventually it was coached out of him, because it was more effective for the sides he was on to find other ways to play the ball up to him and any partner he has, as he's simply not effective at playing that deep and being part of that phase of building up an attack. That's not the kind of striker he is, he never has been and it probably never will be.
Of course, maybe that's part of the problem. While Balotelli has been playing as a lone striker, Liverpool has by and large kept playing like it was Sturridge or maybe even Luis Suarez playing up top. Balotelli perhaps isn't as good a fit as was originally hoped, but Liverpool's refusal to adapt to the player that they have hasn't made the situation any better.
So while Houghton's angry Scottish grumblings are correct in some ways, perhaps the blame for this situation isn't entirely on Balotelli. After all, it takes two to tango, and sometimes both sides have to work together to fix a problem.