Less than a month ago, rumours linking Liverpool with a move for Mario Balotelli were quickly shot down by manager Brendan Rodgers. Following the pre-season meeting between the two clubs, the Liverpool manager was asked about the reports linking the 24-year-old striker to his club and seemed to leave no doubt as to his views on the matter.
"I was asked a question on Mario Balotelli and I spoke about what a talent he is and what an excellent player he is," said Rodgers. "I think the next day, it was written as though we were signing him, which doesn't surprise me, [but] I can categorically tell you Mario Balotelli won't be at Liverpool. I just gave my perception of him as a player."
Though Balotelli's talent and potential is easy to see, the player comes with a history of issues both on and off the pitch that have caused him trouble at every stop in his young career. At the time, all signs pointed to Rodgers being especially interested in gambling that after so many other had failed, he could be the manager who finally got the player's head on straight.
Now, though, with less than two weeks to go in the transfer window and Liverpool's options disappearing, reliable reports from reporters with ties to Liverpool including John Percy at the Telegraph and Tony Barret at the Times suggest a deal is possible—maybe even likely. Both a loan with an option to buy and a straight purchase are reportedly being considered.
Balotelli comes with plenty of question marks, from his questionable behaviour to his tendency to pick up red cards to his wasteful shooting. On his game, though, he can be a dominating presence leading the line. It's just that no manager has yet been able to find a way to get Balotelli playing on his game more often than not, including Jose Mourinho.
Now, with few other striker options available, it may be up to Rodgers to try and succeed where so many others have failed at turning Balotelli from frustrating, at times even infuriating, potential into something resembling a reliable striker. It's a massive gamble, and one that even a month ago Rodgers clearly had no intention of making.
Liverpool's season could end up depending on it working out.