Liverpool's search for another forward officially comes to a conclusion today, as the club announce the signing of Mario Balotelli from AC Milan for a fee rumored to be in the region of £16m. He is, without a doubt, one of the highest-profile players to have signed for Liverpool in recent memory, and he brings with him the promise of spectacle no matter the output on the pitch. We already saw the attention he commanded when arriving for the first part of his medical on Friday evening, and he'll no doubt continue to find himself the focus long after today's confirmation.
The club will hope that the focus comes entirely for footballing reasons; now that the signing and paperwork are all finished, the fun of the pursuit starts to fade and the very real need for him to have an impact takes its place. Liverpool need goals, and they need Mario Balotelli to provide them. He's not here to replace Luis Suarez, a task few in world football could accomplish, but he is here to add goals to the squad, and the sooner he gets up and running the better.
He'll wear the number 45 shirt for Liverpool, and judging by his social media accounts, he's excited about the move:
YNWA! COME ON LIVERPOOL! ✌☝— Mario Balotelli (@FinallyMario) August 25, 2014
Liverpool confirmed the deal shortly after the striker, in typical fashion, did so on his own terms. Brendan Rodgers was effusive in his praise of the striker's potential, noting that he's got all the tools to match the hype that's followed him for years:
"This transfer represents outstanding value for the club and I think we have done a really smart piece of business here. There is no doubting Mario's ability; he is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level. He has scored goals in the Barclays Premier League, in Italy, in the Champions League and for his country at international level.
"I believe we have the infrastructure, culture and environment to get the best out of him and help him achieve his true potential. We are a strong group here, committed to hard work and he will benefit from being around it. I am looking forward to working with him and helping him learn more, improve and progress as a player. I'm sure the supporters will make him feel very welcome."
Balotelli obviously won't be available for tonight's match against his former club, but he'll be in the running for the squad to face Tottenham Hotspur at the weekend. With Lazar Markovic fit, Alberto Moreno available, and Adam Lallana set to rejoin the squad in the coming weeks, Balotelli finds himself part of one of the strongest Liverpool squads in years. Now, as with all the others, he'll have to find a way to have an impact, and to continue the remarkable progress the club have achieved since Brendan Rodgers took over at the start of the 2012-2013 season.
Welcome to Mario, and hopefully his time here is successful for both player and club.
**Addendum: Balotelli's interview with the offal can be found here. "'What do you hope to achieve?' 'As much as I can.'" Go on then.**
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