Rodgers: Balotelli is working hard

Published: Thursday 23rd October 2014 by The News Editor

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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers admits Mario Balotelli has plenty of work to do to prove he is good enough to be at the club.

The Reds boss believes it will be difficult for the Italy international to achieve his potential if he cannot find a way to adapt his individuality into the team ethos.

Balotelli has become something of a scapegoat for the Reds’ problems on the pitch, with not only his return of one goal in 10 appearances since a £16million summer move from AC Milan being blamed, but the manner of his performances.

In the absence of the injured Daniel Sturridge, sidelined for possibly another three weeks with a calf strain, the 24-year-old has failed to fill the void with either goals or work-rate.

While Rodgers continues to defend a player who looks like a greater misfit with every game, he stressed there was a finite point and that was ultimately down to Balotelli – whom former Liverpool captain Graeme Souness described as lacking a “football brain”.

“The Mario Balotelli show is no different to me. He is treated like any other player,” Rodgers said.

“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.

“Longer term we will see how that works out for him but he is trying hard on the training field to improve his opportunities to score goals.

“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.”

Balotelli found himself in hot water with the coach after Wednesday night’s Champions League defeat to Real Madrid when he was spotted exchanging shirts with opponent Pepe as the pair walked down the tunnel at half-time but that has now been dealt with.

“Any action will be kept between ourselves,” added Rodgers.

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

The problem Rodgers has is the summer signings he made up front in Balotelli and Rickie Lambert, a £4million arrival from Southampton, do not fit his style of play when Sturridge is injured.

Both are less mobile and so less able to play the high tempo pressing game which was so successful last season when he had a genuinely world-class striker up front in the now-departed Luis Suarez.

That was evident last night when he made a tactical change in replacing Balotelli at half-time and moving winger Raheem Sterling into a central role as Lambert remained an unused substitute.

“I think Rickie has always been very clear on what the expectancy is on him to come in; he knew he would get games but knew he wouldn’t be a starter,” said the Reds boss.

“That is how it has panned out for him. He is a great guy, he recognises the role he has to play and he is playing that role in training every day.

“He has been absolutely no problem at all. We needed something tactically different in the game last night which was about speed and mobility and that was why we put Raheem through the middle.

“You take the goal threat out of our team from last year and you take out a huge percentage so it is about finding a different way to get the same result.

“At this moment in time it hasn’t been as fluent or efficient but we are working hard to try to master that.

“When Daniel plays it opens up more space for other players. It is something we want him to get back for as quick as we can but Rickie’s role is an important role for us.

“It might not seem that because he has not been playing so much.”

Published: Thursday 23rd October 2014 by The News Editor

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