Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has spoken about his new striker Mario Balotelli and said that he was the best the Reds could do, since every other move failed to materialize.
Rodgers described the former Manchester City player as a calculated risk at the time of his transfer. The striker, in the absence of Daniel Sturridge, has failed to provide much for his team and only has one goal in six appearances so far. After the 1-0 loss to Basel midweek, Rodgers has claimed that there were no available alternatives with deadline day approaching.
“I always said it was about availability and affordability of players,” said Rodgers
“Mario was the one right at the very end who was available for that. I said when he came in that it was a calculated risk and it’s something I have to work on to try to make it work for the team.
“You assess what the group had. We brought in Rickie Lambert as someone who can play some games for us and come off the bench and be an impact player for us in certain games. Daniel is a top Premier League player but has shown during his time here that he does get injuries so we needed to prepare for that. Obviously Fabio Borini looked like he was on his way out [to Sunderland].
“We had attempts for other strikers that didn’t materialise for one reason or another so it left us right at the end of the window with a decision on whether just to go with what we had, when experience told us we were too light, or take a calculated risk on a player who has quality and then could we get it out of him consistently?”
Balotelli’s work rate is something that has caught everyone’s eye. The Italian contributes in the defending and regularly tracks back. However, that has ensured that he is not always in the box and keeps him away from his striking duties. He failed to have a single touch in Basel’s penalty area in the Champions League.
“In terms of his behaviour he is consciously trying to work hard at what we demand here, the intensity and work rate,” said Rodgers.
“I think in terms of goals, he needs to improve. It is as simple as that. At this moment he has not hit the numbers he will have wanted. I encourage the strikers to get into the framework of the goal, wide players to come in and get into the framework of the goal and to break the lines. The quality of our service [against Basel] wasn’t up to the standard it should be. You also have to make and create goals yourself and he didn’t do that. But we win and lose as a team, and against Basel we were not good enough.”
Rodgers denied that Liverpool’s strategy for replacing Luis Suarez was flawed as he saw the initial choices- Alexis Sanchez opt for Arsenal and Loic Remy’s medical collapse.
“I wouldn’t say that,” he responded. “There are very few players who can replace Suárez. Actually there are no players who can replace Suárez. When you look at the availability of other players during the summer it was difficult for us. It’s no good now, I know, but we took a player in Divock Origi [for £9.8m from Lille, who insisted on keeping the Belgium international on loan for the season] who we believe will be world class and we’ll get him next summer.
“He is a top player. He has everything – the speed, the profile and he can play now – but our deal was that we couldn’t bring him in now. That was unfortunate because he can run in behind, he can keep the ball and he can press but that was the deal. There were very few who are top class who were available and Mario Balotelli was a calculated gamble that we had to try to work with.”