English Premiership

Rodgers deflects Balotelli talk

2014-10-23 18:01
Mario Balotelli (AFP)

London - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers conceded on Thursday that Mario Balotelli had still to prove his worth after the Italian striker's latest lacklustre display for the Merseysiders.

Balotelli was replaced at half-time during Liverpool's comprehensive 3-0 group stage loss at home to holders Real Madrid in the Champions League on Wednesday.

At that stage Liverpool were already 3-0 behind and, to make matters worse, Balotelli was seen swapping shirs with the Spanish giants' Pepe.

However, Rodgers insisted Balotelli -- criticised by former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness for lacking a "football brain" -- was working hard despite a return of just one goal in 10 appearances since his £16 million move from AC Milan.

Balotelli's performances have been compounded by a combination of Liverpool's defensive problems, the ongoing absence through injury of fellow-striker Daniel Sturridge and the fact the man he was bought to replace, Luis Suarez, scored 31 goals in the Premier League last season.

Rodgers said Thursday he liked players who are "different" as long as their personalities were put towards the service of the team as a whole.

"The Mario Balotelli show is no different to me. He is treated like any other player," Rodgers explained.

"We have an image of a team here, of how we play and work and how we represent the club.

"I like players that are different. I like individual personality in people with hair and coloured boots but as long as they don't see themselves as an individual, that is what is important.

"They have to fit into the parameters of the team and if those players over the longer term don't it can be difficult for them to work here.

"But in terms of that, he is genuinely working hard and doing his best at Liverpool."

The Northern Irishman added: "As long as he is doing his best that is all I can ask as a coach: whether that best is going to be good enough that remains to be seen -- but that is the same for every player, not just Mario."

Rodgers was unimpressed when told of Balotelli's shirt-swap on Wednesday and, turning to the issue on Thursday, the manager said: "Any action will be kept between ourselves.

"We just had a conversation about the culture in this country and in particular Liverpool and that is it, matter closed."

As well as criticising Balotelli, Liverpool great Souness said Rodgers had to shoulder some of the blame for believing he could succeed in getting more out of the striker than the top managers who had previously worked with the eccentric forward.

"Roberto Mancini twice, Jose Mourinho had one look at him and very quickly said 'I can't work with this guy', Cesare Prandelli said after the World Cup he made a giant mistake taking him to Brazil," Souness said.

"What makes you (Rodgers) think you can get something different from him?" added Souness, himself a former Liverpool manager.

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