Jürgen Klopp has a peculiar dilemma at Anfield regarding his strike force. With five centre-forwards at his disposal, namely Danny Ings, Daniel Sturridge, Divock Origi, Christian Benteke and Mario Balotelli, it wouldn’t be surprising if a couple of these names were deemed surplus to requirements.
As the months of June and July passed by, it became increasingly clear that Benteke and Balotelli would be offloaded in the days to come. While both strikers are still contracted to Liverpool and the former is viewed as an ideal signing by West Bromwich Albion and Crystal Palace, Balotelli appears to be in no man’s land.
The controversial Italian was sent to AC Milan on a season-long loan by the Merseyside club, having signed him from the Milanese giants in the first place. His debut season at Anfield was far from impressive though. Balotelli registered only one Premier League goal and four strikes in all competitions to sum up a torrid return to England, following a couple of years in his native Italy after a decent spell at Manchester City. Then Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers expressed his frustration at the 26-year-old periodically while reiterating the fact that he was immensely talented.
Balotelli has often made the headlines for the wrong reasons and was one of the most discussed footballers in the European spectrum a couple of seasons ago. To see him ascertained, an outcast at Liverpool may not do justice to what he brings to the table but remains validated given his lack of consistency on the pitch. He amassed just three goals in his loan spell at Milan and such figures do precious little to suggest he is a part of Klopp’s plans.
Such was the manager’s view of Balotelli that he urged him to look for a new club. That said, he insisted he would not be sold for a cut-price, as was the case with Benteke. What differentiates the two strikers, though, apart from their physical attributes, is the numbers they have raked up on the pitch with their former clubs. Benteke was directly involved in almost half of Aston Villa’s goals in his three-year spell in the West Midlands. In sharp contrast to that, Balotelli has been rendered a nuisance and a liability by most of his previous employers and in a dynamic environment where reputations count for plenty, a less than satisfactory goal tally has undone the Italian massively.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher pulled no punches when he was asked to describe the Balotelli conundrum. By stating that he was befuddled by the signing and that Balotelli was one of the most overrated players he had ever seen, Carragher extinguished any speculation regarding his status at the club. The striker is unwanted, not just by Liverpool, but by a host of clubs he had been linked to in the recent past, a few of which were Turkish giants Besiktas and Italian side Chievo. Several factors played their part in compounding Balotelli’s misery and with time running out in the transfer window, there doesn’t appear to be a ray of hope for the crestfallen maverick.
What’s more is that the current Liverpool set up provides little scope for a player whose work rate is insufficient to match the rigorous demands of the Premier League. Klopp’s high pressing, energy burning system only suits players with the willingness and ability to chase down defenders and force them into making mistakes. Balotelli is far from eligible in that regard and that explains why Benteke too isn’t the type of striker Klopp would help acclimatize to his philosophy.
As things stand, the troublesome forward is on Liverpool’s books. Given his personal and professional ordeals, though, it might just be a matter of when and not if he is sent spiralling towards a bottomless pit.