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Is this mercurial Italian striker worth the risk?

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Perhaps one of the most unexpected signings of the transfer window this summer – Italian striker Mario Balotelli swapped the San Siro for Anfield after the Merseyside club had a 16 million GBP bid accepted by Italian giants AC Milan earlier this week. The former Manchester City striker will return to the Premier League after having left the country in January 2013 to complete his dream move to AC Milan, having begun his career in the colours of arch-rivals Inter.

The signing that no one saw coming 

In what has been a complete turnaround in terms what either party spoke about in relation to the transfer few weeks ago, Balotelli to Liverpool is happening for real. Just about 3 weeks have gone by since Rodgers said “categorically” that he would not be signing Mario Balotelli. If that wasn’t enough to put the media frenzy around the speculated transfer than only a few days earlier, the Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani stated with “99.9%” certainty that the Italian striker would stay at the Giuseppe Meazza stadium. If it wasn’t obvious before, football fans must beware that they shouldn’t be bothered about the boys who cry wolf but the boys who insist on saying that nothing is going on while the transfer window is on.

 At 16 million GBP – A Steal

At 24 years old as Italy’s number 1 striker and behind only Luis Suarez and Daniel Sturridge in the number of league goals scored in last 2 calendar years, Mario Balotelli at 16 million GBP will definitely fall under the category of being a steal. However, as EPL fans will know very well – along with the talent and natural ability of Balotelli comes a whole lot of unnecessary baggage, one that Liverpool fans will have to ready themselves well in advance for.

Milan are said to be receiving just 16 million GBP for Balotelli which is 4 million GBP more than what Southampton paid for Shane Long and 2 million GBP more than what Sunderland are reportedly paying Liverpool for striker Fabio Borini. For a 24-year-old striker with 33 Italy caps and 31 Champions League appearances, that represents an outstanding bargain.

 Behavioural Concerns and Rodgers’ plans about them

Having spent 2 seasons with Luis Suarez and all the issues related with the Uruguayan striker’s conduct, Rodgers has no doubt whatsoever that Mario Balotelli won’t be too hot to handle. Despite having refused to comment on the impending transfer until its completed the Ulsterman did share his views on the importance of code and conduct at Melwood saying, “We have an intensive code of conduct for any member of staff here. That covers everyone, not one particular individual. Nothing will ever shake our fantastic environment. We’ve got a learning environment for players, lots of players improving.”

 

Reiterating that he has the final say in all transfers and that Balotelli would fit right in, Rodgers said, “No player would come into here if I felt it couldn’t work. If I can help the person, then it’s something I will look at too. People who know me well will tell you I look to try and develop the player and the person. Thankfully we have that culture here.”

A Calculated Risk 

Signing the enigmatic Italian striker is a risk, without a shadow of a doubt. However, according to the officials at Liverpool, it is a calculated risk. Rodgers says, “I’ve shown before that as long as players care and want to learn, we can give them the opportunity to develop. Sometimes you have to take a risk with people, but a lot of the time, if you take that risk you get a reward for it.”

Having famously told off a young Raheem Sterling in the ill-fated ‘Being Liverpool’ documentary, it is no surprise that Rodgers’ didn’t flinch on the opportunity to sign the talent of Balotelli overlooking the baggage and controversy he carries along with him.