We're close to some sort of official confirmation the Mario Balotelli is a Liverpool player, with Brendan Rodgers expected to have another sit-down with the Italian striker today ahead of giving the final go-ahead on the deal. Assurances are apparently needed that the 24-year-old's conduct won't be an issue before things are wrapped up, which always seems a bit silly given that you're asking someone to promise they won't act irrationally when they're really amped up. "Sure thing, boss."
Barring any blow-ups during their meeting, though, we can expect Balotelli to be announced soonish, especially given that his agent, Mino Raiola, has been very publicly talking about the deal as though it's done. In addition to clarifying certain aspects of the contract--three months' worth of discussions(?!?), no special code of conduct--he also noted what's at stake for his client:
"Mario played well the first 6-7 months, giving a decisive contribution to go in the Champions League. But then we saw that he is not ready to be a leader. So I searched for a team where he can be an important element without being the leader. Liverpool have Gerrard - Mario will be protected and there he will do his best. Mario needs to feel free, to score goals and nothing more. Now it's up to him. Another flop is not advisable. Liverpool is the last resort at the highest level for Balotelli. Make it or break it."
As Chuck outlined last night, we've been here before--Rodgers couched Daniel Sturridge's Liverpool move in a similar context, noting that the former Manchester City and Chelsea striker was running out of opportunities to prove that he belonged. And, rather than respond with bitterness or contempt, Sturridge started scoring from his first day in a Liverpool shirt and hasn't stopped, proving his manager right along the way by making good on the expectation that "he will prove a big hit and give us another attacking threat."
We can only hope Mino Raiola's prescience is equally impressive.