Replacing a player that’s not only the best in your squad, but also the best in the entire Premier League is certainly no mean task. When Luis Suarez left Anfield, he left a huge vacuum which was going to be near impossible to fill. The £75 million that the club received for the Uruguayan had to be used optimally, to bring in reinforcements who could fill the boots of the man who scored 31 league goals last season and nearly single-handedly led his team to the title.
Big names were mentioned, with the likes of Edinson Cavani, Karim Benzema and Radamel Falcao all being linked to a move to Merseyside. In the end though, manager Brendan Rodgers chose to allocate the funds from the Suarez sale over a host of strikers rather than bringing in just one big-name. Rickie Lambert and Divock Origi were brought in early on in the window, while the marquee signing came close to deadline day. Mario Balotelli was brought in from AC Milan for £16 million, a fee that some considered a major bargain.
One month in though, the doubters have increased vastly.
Balotelli is yet to score in the Premier League, and despite finding the net for the Reds in the Champions League, he is yet to convince one and all that he is the right man to replace Suarez.
He put in another ordinary performance against Everton in the Merseyside derby on Saturday, and despite having several clear-cut chances to score, he failed to do so. One of the major features of Suarez’s game, along with his amazing pace and clever link-up play, was his deadly finishing. Even though some may argue that the goals will flow for Balotelli once he gets his first, his wastefulness in front of goal has already cost Liverpool some precious points in their bid to replicate their 2nd placed finish last year. Against Everton, he had the golden chance to make it 2-0 and put the game to bed, but he inexplicably hit the bar from 4 years, with the goalkeeper stranded. Everton, of course, went on to equalise and come away with a draw.
Labelled as ‘un-manageable’ by Jose Mourinho during his time at Inter Milan, Balotelli has shown flashes of some incredible brilliance in his young career. He has though, also soured his image by getting involved in countless controversies and misdemeanors. Still at the age of only 24, there is no doubt that on his day, the Italian is as good as anyone around.
Rodgers though, will want him to start delivering, and quickly. In Daniel Sturridge’s absence, Liverpool have lost 6 out of 15 games, and if Balotelli can’t find the back of the net on a regular basis, that stat may get worse for the Reds.
The critics are sure to hound Rodgers until Balotelli starts making an impact on a regular basis. The question that will be asked is whether he should have signed a bigger and better striker, especially with the large amount of funds that he had at his disposal.