Soccer

Jack: What we learned about Balotelli to Liverpool

{eot}
Kristian Jack, TSN.ca
8/21/2014 12:46:30 PM
Decrease Text SizeIncrease Text Size
Text Size

Liverpool has swapped out one controversial striker for another, filling the offensive void left by Luis Suarez with the enigmatic Mario Balotelli. TSN Soccer Analyst Kristian Jack provides three things we learned from the Italian striker's move to Anfield.

1. Fenway Sports Group conducts its business away from the public eye.

John Henry, Tom Werner and Larry Lucchino leaned on Theo Epstein.

As the Boston Red Sox moved from lovable losers to winners on the field, their dealings off the field were equally as professional.

Of course, their budget helped, but a desire to keep all of their dealings in-house was not something the Fenway Sports Group wanted. It was something they demanded.

Their pursuit of star shortstop Alex Rodriguez, then of the Texas Rangers, in 2003, made recently into a short film by ESPN, showed the lengths Epstein and his assistant Jed Hoyer went to try and land A-Rod. How they failed ultimately had nothing to do with their strategic pursuit.

FSG have brought that method to Liverpool. This is no longer a club regularly linked with players for weeks before they sign them. Their business is done behind closed doors and the news only breaks when the transfer is a formality.

The latest acquisition of Mario Balotelli highlights this attitude and also provides the exact reasons for such a strategy.

Balotelli is arguably the most polarizing footballer on the planet. Any long, drawn-out pursuit of such a player can be mentally exhausting for any organization. Liverpool conducted their search the right way and the moment it became public no one could question whether the Reds should get the Italian, as it was already a done deal.

2. Liverpool continue to shop at a realistic level when pursuing players.

They do not have the budget of Manchester City or the pull geographically of Chelsea or Arsenal. They cannot afford to sign genuine world class stars on some of the sport's largest contracts. However, that doesn't mean Liverpool cannot attract good players.

When they sold Fernando Torres to Chelsea they want shopping at the cheaper, Dutch Erevidisie, store and brought in Luis Suarez. With Suarez at Barcelona, Liverpool went on a search to find his replacement.

They were linked with Edinson Cavani and Radamel Falcao but they were never realistically in their price range. Those are in the elite class of centre-forwards, a class Liverpool shouldn't waste their time looking at. Instead, Liverpool have landed on a player with incredible potential, a player who they could help graduate to such a class within the next couple of years.

It represents great business for manager Brendan Rodgers and CEO Ian Ayre who get a player with experience at the top level but who has underperformed during his career so far. It sends a message to the other players in the squad that the club is serious about maintaining their current level as contenders for Champions League spots each season. Much like the Suarez signing, it is also an acquisition that can set them for years because if Rodgers gets the best out of Balotelli he could end up selling him for five times the price when he is at the peak of his career in two or three seasons.

3. Balotelli remains one of the most overrated players in the game.

It will be said that three major clubs have now happily moved on from the Italian and he is only 24. While this is true, the move away from Manchester City was the real indictment on the striker's career. At Inter he left for the bright lights of England under Roberto Mancini with a substantial pay packet, while at Milan it was clear the team was not good enough to have to put up with the issues he brings.

Many of the issues off the field have been reported regularly but Balotelli's biggest issue of all is the type of player he is on the field. At Manchester City he was incapable of adapting to different roles. He sulked when being taken off, was a liability when asked to play in any other position than up top and wasn't mentally strong enough to wait for his chance.

The sport can humble players very quickly but the position he plays requires tremendous patience and maturity as you might only get one chance to win a game. Balotelli's ineffectiveness in this area is not down to immaturity. He is three years younger than Lionel Messi and, at 24, is far from the 'kid' many refer to him as.

Such negative aspects of his game meant he was no longer a fit in a very good side like City who had better players. It also meant he was no longer a fit in a very average side like Milan because his demands didn't match up with the talent around him.

His demands have also not matched up with his own talent. He is built very much like a striker who can play up top on his own, but his overall attitude and tendency to drift out of games is one of the reasons he hasn't started as many Champions League games as he should have. He has an abysmal scoring record in that competition and that will need to change quickly for him to reach the next level.

How he left his three previous teams was not all down to his own inefficiencies, however, each time the jury remained out on what type of player he can become. He now goes to a club that will embrace him, a club that creates many goal scoring opportunities that will give him many situations in which to succeed.

Balotelli's time is now: A time that will allow the jury of public opinion to sit back and see if he develops.

How and when he ultimately ends up leaving Liverpool will tell us exactly what type of player he has become.

Mario Balotelli (Photo: The Canadian Press)

zoom

(Photo: The Canadian Press)
Share This

Share This

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to FarkAdd to TwitterAdd to Stumble UponAdd to Reddit
Print this Story


Podcasts

TSN 690: oranges at halftime: Frank Klopas: Sept. 18

Following Wednesday night's Champions League win, we catch up with the Impact's Head Coach

TSN 690: oranges at halftime: Tommy Smyth: Sept. 18

We recap the UEFA Champions League Matchday 1 and sneak a peak at Tommy's legendary prediction ways.

TSN FC with Luke Wileman, Jason deVos & Kristian Jack - September 15

Luke, Jason and KJ are back in-studio to talk Toronto FC dysfunction, Tim Leiweke's comments, the Whitecaps playoff push, EPL & more.


More Podcasts

Premier League Shows on TSN.ca

TSN.ca is Canada's exclusive home to highlight and feature programs from the Barclay's Premier League. Check out the latest programs on VOD below.


Net Busters

See all the goals, saves, bloopers and quotes from each week

- Episode 4

Previous episodes:3 | 2 | 1


BPL Match Pack

Weekly match preview show using interesting facts & figures

- Week 5

TSN TweetBox
© 2014
All rights reserved.
Bell Media Television