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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 this week.

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
Fri, 10 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 4 vs WST 1 Report Stats
Sat, 11 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs NEW Report Stats
SYD 1 vs MEC 1 Report Stats
Sun, 12 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs PER 2 Report Stats
BRI 1 vs ADE 2 Report Stats
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Round 2
Fri, 17 OctTimes shown AEDT
ADE 1 vs VIC 1 Report Stats
Sat, 18 OctTimes shown AEDT
CCM 1 vs WEL 2 Report Stats
SYD 3 vs WST 2 Report Stats
Sun, 19 OctTimes shown AEDT
MEC 1 vs NEW 1 Report Stats
PER 3 vs BRI 2 Report Stats
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Round 3
Fri, 24 OctTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs SYD 2 Report Stats
Sat, 25 OctTimes shown AEDT
VIC 5 vs MEC 2 Report Stats
Sun, 26 OctTimes shown AEDT
WEL 4 vs NEW 1 Report Stats
ADE 2 vs PER Report Stats
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Round 4
Fri, 31 OctTimes shown AEDT
MEC 1 vs ADE 2 Report Stats
Sat, 01 NovTimes shown AEDT
PER 2 vs NEW 1 Report Stats
Sun, 02 NovTimes shown AEDT
SYD 2 vs CCM Report Stats
Mon, 03 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 2 vs WEL Report Stats
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Round 5
Fri, 07 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL 1 vs WST Report Stats
ADE vs SYD Stats
Sat, 08 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW 2 vs VIC 2 Report Stats
BRI 1 vs MEC 3 Report Stats
Sun, 09 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 1 Report Stats
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Round 6
Fri, 14 NovTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 4 Report Stats
Sat, 15 NovTimes shown AEDT
ADE 2 vs WEL 1 Report Stats
SYD vs VIC Report Stats
PER 2 vs WST 1 Report Stats
Sun, 16 NovTimes shown AEDT
MEC 2 vs CCM 2 Report Stats
Wed, 19 NovTimes shown AEDT
WST vs CCM Report Stats
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Round 7
Fri, 21 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC 1 vs BRI Report Stats
Sat, 22 NovTimes shown AEDT
WST 1 vs NEW 1 Report Stats
MEC 1 vs SYD 2 Report Stats
PER 2 vs WEL 1 Report Stats
Sun, 23 NovTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 2 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 28 NovTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs ADE 19:00AAMI
Sat, 29 NovTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs PER 17:00SS
WST vs SYD 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sun, 30 NovTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MEC 16:00WS
NEW vs CCM 17:00HUN
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Wed, 03 DecTimes shown AEDT
WST vs BRI 19:30Pirtek Stadium
BRI vs NEW 20:00SS
Tue, 09 DecTimes shown AEDT
WST vs PER 19:30TBC
Thu, 08 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 17:30WS
Mon, 02 FebTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs CCM 19:30AAMI
Wed, 25 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs MEC 19:30Coopers Stadium
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Round 10
Thu, 04 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs PER 19:30AS
Fri, 05 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs VIC 19:30TBC
Sat, 06 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs WEL 17:00HUN
ADE vs WST 20:00Coopers Stadium
Sun, 07 DecTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs BRI 17:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs BRI 19:30Coopers Stadium
PER vs NEW 21:45NIB
Sat, 13 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs CCM 16:00EP
WST vs MEC 17:00Pirtek Stadium
VIC vs SYD 19:30ES
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 19 DecTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WST 20:00SS
Sat, 20 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs ADE 17:00HUN
MEC vs VIC 19:30AAMI
PER vs CCM 21:45NIB
Sun, 21 DecTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs WEL 17:00AS
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Round 13
Fri, 26 DecTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs PER 17:30AAMI
SYD vs ADE 19:30AS
Sat, 27 DecTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 17:00Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs NEW 19:30AAMI
Sun, 28 DecTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs WST 17:00WS
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Tue, 30 DecTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs MEC 17:00HUN
BRI vs SYD 20:00SS
Wed, 31 DecTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs WEL 19:30Coopers Stadium
Thu, 01 JanTimes shown AEDT
WST vs CCM 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Fri, 02 JanTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs PER 19:30Simonds Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Sat, 03 JanTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs NEW 19:30WIN Stadium
Sun, 04 JanTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs BRI 15:00WS
CCM vs MEC 17:00Central Coast Stadium
Mon, 05 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER vs ADE 23:00NIB
Tue, 06 JanTimes shown AEDT
WST vs VIC 19:30Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Sat, 24 JanTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs NEW 17:00Coopers Stadium
CCM vs SYD 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 25 JanTimes shown AEDT
PER vs VIC 20:00NIB
Sun, 01 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs WEL 15:00SS
MEC vs WST 17:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 06 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs BRI 19:30HUN
Sat, 07 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs ADE 17:00Central Coast Stadium
VIC vs MEC 19:30ES
PER vs SYD 21:45NIB
Sun, 08 FebTimes shown AEDT
WST vs WEL 17:00Pirtek Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 13 FebTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs BRI 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sat, 14 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs MEC 16:00Brendan Foot Kia Hutt Recreation Ground
NEW vs WST 17:00HUN
SYD vs VIC 19:30AS
Sun, 15 FebTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PER 17:00Coopers Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 20 FebTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs VIC 20:00SS
Sat, 21 FebTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs CCM 17:00AS
ADE vs WST 20:00Coopers Stadium
Sun, 22 FebTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs NEW 16:00Brendan Foot Kia Hutt Recreation Ground
MEC vs PER 17:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 27 FebTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs ADE 19:30AAMI
Sat, 28 FebTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs CCM 17:00HUN
WST vs SYD 19:30Pirtek Stadium
PER vs BRI 21:45NIB
Sun, 01 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs WEL 17:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 06 MarTimes shown AEDT
NEW vs SYD 19:30HUN
Sat, 07 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs ADE 18:00Brendan Foot Kia Hutt Recreation Ground
VIC vs PER 19:30AAMI
Sun, 08 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs MEC 15:00Central Coast Stadium
BRI vs WST 17:00SS
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Thu, 12 MarTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs CCM 19:30Coopers Stadium
Fri, 13 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST vs VIC 19:30Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 14 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs BRI 19:30AS
PER vs WEL 21:45NIB
Sun, 15 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs NEW 17:00AAMI
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 20 MarTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs MEC 19:30AS
Sat, 21 MarTimes shown AEDT
WST vs NEW 17:00Pirtek Stadium
ADE vs VIC 20:00Coopers Stadium
Sun, 22 MarTimes shown AEDT
CCM vs PER 15:00Central Coast Stadium
BRI vs WEL 17:00SS
View All Fixtures
Round 24
Fri, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
VIC vs CCM 19:30AAMI
Sat, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEC vs BRI 19:30AAMI
PER vs WST 21:45NIB
Sun, 29 MarTimes shown AEDT
WEL vs SYD 15:00WS
NEW vs ADE 17:00HUN
View All Fixtures
Round 25
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
BRI vs CCM 21:00SS
Fri, 03 AprTimes shown AEDT
WST vs MEC 16:00Pirtek Stadium
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
SYD vs ADE 19:30AS
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs VIC 16:00WS
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
NEW vs PER 16:00HUN
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Round 26
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
VIC vs NEW 19:30AAMI
PER vs SYD 21:45NIB
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
ADE vs BRI 17:00Coopers Stadium
CCM vs WST 19:30Central Coast Stadium
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
MEC vs WEL 17:00AAMI
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Round 27
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
WEL vs CCM 17:30WS
NEW vs SYD 19:45HUN
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
WST vs ADE 17:00Pirtek Stadium
BRI vs VIC 19:30SS
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
PER vs MEC 17:00NIB
View All Fixtures
Hyundai A - 2014-15 - Ladder
Overall standings
Team P W D L +/- Pts
Perth Glory FC 7 6 0 1 4 18
Adelaide United FC 7 5 2 0 7 17
Melbourne Victory FC 7 4 3 0 9 15
Sydney FC 7 4 3 0 6 15
Wellington Phoenix FC 7 3 0 4 0 9
Melbourne City FC 7 1 3 3 -3 6
Central Coast Mariners FC 7 1 2 4 -5 5
Brisbane Roar FC 6 1 0 5 -3 3
View all
 
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