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Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers must treat Mario Balotelli as an adult

Date

Paul Hayward

Liverpool's new signings Mario Balotelli (R) and Adam Lallana (L) watch on during the loss to Manchester City earlier ...

Liverpool's new signings Mario Balotelli (R) and Adam Lallana (L) watch on during the loss to Manchester City earlier this week. Photo: Reuters

The way this is going, social services are going to meet on Merseyside to discuss the Mario Balotelli conundrum. Police, psychologists and council experts will convene with tea and biscuits to discuss what the city can do to control a young man so profoundly troubled that he once let off a firework in his own bathroom.

Plainly, Liverpool has not faced such a challenge to public order since the Derek Hatton era, or when Luis Suarez was trying to eat people.

Balotelli, we know, does crazy things, such as drive round in expensive sports cars at odd hours of the night, and go to curry houses 48 hours before games. Radical.

Here comes trouble. But does it really? Balotelli is an eccentric, a free spirit, a sulker, an outsider and occasionally a violent tackler. He is clearly a complete mystery to the type of coach who wants to dragoon him into a "collective". Jose Mourinho called him "uncoachable" and Roberto Mancini grappled with him on the training ground. If there is one good piece of advice to Brendan Rodgers, based on past evidence, it is: don't try to behave like his dad, or his saviour, because he sees right through people who think of him as a project.

Liverpool's view of Balotelli is bound to be skewed by the Suarez saga, which is the unavoidable backdrop to Super Mario's £16 million move from Milan back to the north-west of England. This calculated gamble on (intermittent) world-class talent was bound to be seen as Liverpool importing another 'problem player' just weeks after losing the Count Dracula of Uruguay to Barcelona.

The two stories need not converge, though Balotelli will undoubtedly bring distractions. Rodgers, his manager, was clearly joking when he replied "trouble" to a live TV question about what Balotelli would bring to Anfield; but he would be wise not to plant in his new striker's head the idea that he will be seen by Liverpool's coaching staff as nitroglycerine in a No. 45 shirt.

"It's a family club with strong family values, and, as I said, behaviour is very important here," Rodgers said. Fair enough. Clear message. And: "He's a very bright boy. He was very clever. He understood where he's at this stage of his career and he knows himself that this is probably his last chance." No harm in that either, though Balotelli might dispute the idea that Liverpool are doing him any kind of favour, given his modest purchase price, and his 30 goals in 54 appearances for AC Milan.

No: Rodgers set the bar at its maximum when he said of Balotelli that he could "help him improve as a person". You know what he means. Yet something tells me Liverpool should steer clear of pastoral missions and just treat Balotelli like any other footballer, because the signs are that he is not looking for a wing to be taken under.

A Champions League winner at 19, and league title holder in England and Italy, Balotelli has refused to respond to the patriarchal strictures of Mourinho and Mancini, but seemed happier, at times, in the Italy squad of Cesare Prandelli, where he was neither indulged nor constantly leaned on.

At Milan, Massimiliano Allegri, the coach from 2012-2014, expressed his real value to Liverpool, regardless of how many times he scores: helping Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling and Philippe Coutinho to prosper, by hounding centre-backs in the No.9 position.

Allegri also described his enduring weakness as a team player. "I think Balotelli gives his very best when he plays alone in attack and does not need to go back into midfield to receive the ball, wasting energy," Allegri said. "He is one of the best footballers in the world in this role. He only needs to learn to play more for the team. Potentially he is a world-class player but he needs to improve some aspects of his game and needs to do it quickly because he is not a child any more."

Granted, a prurient fascination in Balotelli's life off the field is inevitable. He has caused it to be so. But the big question for Rodgers is not whether his new signing will give a homeless man in Bootle £500 through the window of a Lamborghini (expect much fresh mythology on the grapevine).

It is whether Balotelli is actually an elite striker or simply overrated; a natural successor to Ian Rush, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler and Suarez or a permanently alienated narcissist who just cannot commit himself to a group endeavour.

Finding out will be fun. But Balotelli is nobody's psychological case study. At 24 he either signs up to what Liverpool are trying to do or fills a gap before Rodgers finds a more reliable replacement for Suarez. There is enough conformity around for us to be able to handle this much "trouble".

The Telegraph, London

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Hyundai A - 2014-15 - All Rounds

Round 1
Thu, 08 OctTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs BRI 3 Stats
Fri, 09 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs VIC 0 Stats
Sat, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs PER 2 Stats
SYD 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sun, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs NEW 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 16 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs WSW 1 Stats
Sat, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs SYD 1 Stats
VIC 3vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs CCM 1 Stats
PER 1vs WEL 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 23 OctTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs VIC 0 Stats
Sat, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 3vs BRI 2 Stats
SYD 1vs WSW 0 Stats
Sun, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs CCM 1 Stats
PER 3vs ADE 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 30 OctTimes shown AEDT
MCY 2vs NEW 3 Stats
Sat, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs SYD 3 Stats
BRI 3vs ADE 0 Stats
Sun, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 1vs PER 0 Stats
Mon, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 3vs WEL 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Thu, 05 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs MCY 4 Stats
Fri, 06 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs BRI 0 Stats
Sat, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WEL 1 Stats
Wed, 16 DecTimes shown AEDT
PER 1vs VIC 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 13 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4vs ADE 2 Stats
MCY 0vs WSW 3 Stats
Sat, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs CCM 1 Stats
SYD 2vs VIC 4 Stats
Sun, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs PER 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Thu, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Fri, 20 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs MCY 1 Stats
Sat, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs WEL 1 Stats
PER 0vs SYD 0 Stats
Sun, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 0vs NEW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Thu, 26 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 0vs WEL 0 Stats
Fri, 27 NovTimes shown AEDT
MCY 5vs PER 1 Stats
Sat, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs BRI 1 Stats
VIC 2vs ADE 1 Stats
Sun, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs WSW 2 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Thu, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs MCY 5 Stats
Fri, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD 1vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 2vs VIC 0 Stats
WSW 2vs BRI 1 Stats
Sun, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs PER 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 11 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs SYD 1 Stats
Sat, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs WEL 1 Stats
WSW 2vs VIC 0 Stats
PER 2vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs MCY 4 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 18 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
Sat, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs SYD 1 Stats
MCY 2vs VIC 1 Stats
PER 2vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 0vs BRI 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 24 DecTimes shown AEDT
WSW 2vs NEW 0 Stats
Sat, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE 3vs WEL 0 Stats
SYD 4vs CCM 1 Stats
Sun, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs PER 1 Stats
BRI 3vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs WEL 1 Stats
Fri, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 0vs ADE 0 Stats
Sat, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
BRI 2vs PER 1 Stats
MCY 2vs SYD 2 Stats
Sun, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 0vs VIC 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Fri, 08 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM 3vs VIC 3 Stats
Sat, 09 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2vs NEW 0 Stats
MCY 3vs WSW 2 Stats
PER 1vs ADE 3 Stats
Sun, 10 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs BRI 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Fri, 15 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4vs BRI 0 Stats
Sat, 16 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 3vs CCM 1 Stats
WSW 1vs SYD 2 Stats
PER 2vs MCY 2 Stats
Sun, 17 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 3vs WEL 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 22 JanTimes shown AEDT
BRI 1vs ADE 4 Stats
Sat, 23 JanTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1vs WSW 2 Stats
Sun, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
NEW 1vs PER 6 Stats
Mon, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
MCY 3vs WEL 1 Stats
Tue, 26 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1vs SYD 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 29 JanTimes shown AEDT
WSW 4vs MCY 3 Stats
Sat, 30 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1vs CCM 3 Stats
SYD 1vs BRI 3 Stats
PER 3vs VIC 2 Stats
Sun, 31 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1vs NEW 0 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 05 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2vs SYD 2 Stats
Sat, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI 4vs CCM 0 Stats
VIC 1vs WSW 1 Stats
Sun, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL 0vs PER 1 Stats
NEW 2vs MCY 1 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 12 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs NEW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PER 17:15Allianz Stadium
MCY vs VIC 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 15:00Central Coast Stadium
WSW vs WEL 17:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 19 FebTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WEL 17:15Hunter Stadium
SYD vs WSW 19:30Allianz Stadium
PER vs BRI 21:40nib Stadium
Sun, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs CCM 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 26 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MCY 17:30Westpac Stadium
WSW vs PER 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 17:15Coopers Stadium
VIC vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs NEW 17:00Central Coast Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 04 MarTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WSW 20:00Suncorp Stadium
Sat, 05 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs ADE 17:15Westpac Stadium
MCY vs SYD 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 17:00Central Coast Stadium
Mon, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
PER vs NEW 20:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 11 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs MCY 19:40Coopers Stadium
Sat, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 17:15Allianz Stadium
BRI vs VIC 19:30Suncorp Stadium
PER vs CCM 21:40nib Stadium
Sun, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WSW 17:00Hunter Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 18 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs BRI 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 19 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs SYD 17:15Central Coast Stadium
WSW vs ADE 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs PER 15:00Westpac Stadium
VIC vs NEW 17:00AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Fri, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WSW 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs PER 17:15Hunter Stadium
BRI vs SYD 19:30Suncorp Stadium
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs CCM 17:00Coopers Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MCY vs WEL 19:30AAMI Park
View All Fixtures
Round 26
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
WSW vs CCM 19:40Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs VIC 17:15Westpac Stadium
SYD vs ADE 19:30Allianz Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI vs NEW 17:00Suncorp Stadium
PER vs MCY 19:00nib Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 27
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
MCY vs ADE 19:40AAMI Park
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
CCM vs NEW 17:15Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs BRI 19:30AAMI Park
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs WSW 15:00Westpac Stadium
SYD vs PER 17:00Allianz Stadium
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W L +/- Pts
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 18 10 4 10 34
Brisbane Roar FC 18 10 4 9 34
Melbourne City FC 18 8 6 11 28
Melbourne Victory 18 8 6 6 28
Sydney FC 18 7 4 5 28
Adelaide United 18 7 5 3 27
Perth Glory 18 6 8 -1 22
Newcastle Jets 18 5 9 -12 19
View all
 

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