Mario Balotelli's signing was, in the minds of many, the highest-profile incoming transfer deal in recent memory. Others have cost more (at least three this summer alone), but you'd be hard-pressed to pick out a player whose resume and reputation could match the 24-year-old Italian's. Not all of the profile is good, of course, and there's a case to be made that the last thing Liverpool needed to do after selling Luis Suarez was to bring in another striker whose every move--on and off the pitch--commands attention.
That's the reality that comes with signing Balotelli, though, and Liverpool will need to make sure they strike a balance between helping him settle in while still underlining the importance of him doing the same for the club. And that is, according to Brendan Rodgers, exactly what's unfolding in the player's first week as a Liverpool player:
"This is not the Mario Balotelli show. He's a good player, and a talented player, but he has a lot of work to do here. We've got a number of top-class players. The star of this team will always be the team. There's no more pressure on him than on the rest of the team. He's a member of this team. He's top quality, there's no doubt about that, a class act with wonderful football qualities. He can play with Daniel Sturridge, he can play up there on his own and he can play off the side. His concentration is very much on the football.
"He is fine, he has settled down very well. He has looked fantastic in training, and he's a good lad. The focus is very much on his football, and he's done very well. He's moving to Merseyside and he's engrossing himself with the club and the people, and more importantly into his football. I look forward to seeing that developing over the coming years."
Questions about role in the squad aside--how will a partnership with Sturridge work, how will he do on his own, can he actually be effective starting from the wide areas--there is the sense that Rodgers has already tired of the questions about the goings-on related to Balotelli; he knows what he's in for, of course, and Liverpool's manager is not one to shy away from an opportunity to talk. About anything, really. But as far as Balotelli is concerned, this seems to be the foundation--stress the team over the individual, time and again, until it becomes reality.
Having spent most of the last two seasons doing the same type of work regarding Suarez, hopefully it gleans similar results with Mario Balotelli.