Liverpool FC Sign Mario Balotelli; How Does Italian Striker Fit Into Offense?
Liverpool Echo/ Twitter/ @LivEchoLFC
Mario Balotelli may be more well-known for his on the field temperament issues and tendency to go shirtless than his goal scoring ability, but it’s plain to see from watching just a few minutes of his play that the young Italian striker boasts elite athleticism and a strikers’ instinct.
Today, Liverpool FC capitalized on his potential as a striker by signing Balotelli from AC Milan for a reported £16 million. The team confirmed the move earlier today in a press release, and confirmed that the player will wear the No. 45 in his return to the English Premier League.
Many are skeptical of the Italian striker’s true value to the team. Balotelli has shown a tendency to disappear at times throughout the season, and his somewhat poor judgment in the past has led to several missed games due to bans. On top of Balotelli’s flaws, Liverpool seems to be fairly solid in the offense and will take criticism from the press for not bolstering their defense instead of adding another striker. Many are labeling the purchase of Balotelli as a “panic buy” after the departure of Luis Suarez.
However, the positives from Liverpool’s purchase of the Italian striker far outweigh the negatives.
Brendan Rodgers’ squad is the perfect fit for Balotelli’s style of play. Liverpool boasts speedy wings such as Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson, as well as midfield playmakers such as Stephen Gerrard and Philippe Coutinho. The team already has an established forward up top in Daniel Sturridge, which means that the pressure for Balotelli to immediately be the go-to striker is off.
Another aspect that Balotelli has shown us in the past is that the more talented the team around him is, the better he plays. It seems like a simple concept, that a player would play better if the players around him were better, but it has seemed to manifest itself in the Italian striker more than others. Balotelli’s form often reflects that of the team, and that showed for both AC Milan over the past few seasons and Italy in the 2014 World Cup.
The most important signal to his ultimate success or failure as a member of Liverpool will be how and where Rodgers utilizes Balotelli in the offense. Balotelli has looked better behind a main striker instead of alone up top, and, guess what, that’s exactly what Liverpool has in Daniel Sturridge. Immediately upon Balotelli’s arrival, he and Sturridge become possibly the most athletic striking duo in the EPL.
Overall, the signing of Balotelli for £16 million in a market where fairly unproven players are going for over £20 million was a brilliant decision by Liverpool. He comes into a side where he’s not desperately needed for success, he has the players around him to succeed, and, most importantly, has a coach that will be able to cater to his needs as a striker rather than forcing him into an uncomfortable decision.
Even at a tremendous discount, Liverpool finally have the big-name striker that they’ve been wanting to buy since the departure of Suarez, and Balotelli may have finally found a team at which he can have success as well as call home for the five or so seasons. Keep an eye on this moving forward, because this could be a transfer remembered as one of the biggest steals in Premier League history.
Taylor Sturm is a Columnist for StoppageTimeSoccer.net. Follow him on Twitter @TSturmRS, like him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google.