5 Bold Predictions for Mario Balotelli's Liverpool Season
In a relatively surprising summer move, Liverpool appear to have made the winning bid for maligned AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli, who has been one of the most polarizing athletes in world football.
While he tends to make the headlines for reasons unrelated to the sport, he's still a quality striker who could prove to be a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Reds.
Manager Brendan Rodgers knew he needed an alternative to Daniel Sturridge up front as Liverpool will be playing in four different competitions this season with the Champions League back on their schedule.
Here are five bold predictions for Mario Balotelli's first year with his new club.
He'll Start the Season with a Bang
Balotelli tends to start his new adventures on the right foot.
His first season with Milan resulted in nearly a goal per game. The Italian netted 12 times in 14 matches during his first four months with the club.
That exuberance around the new adventure usually lasts a season or so, but then frustration sets in and transfer speculation starts up again.
Liverpool will be the 24-year-old's fourth top-flight club.
While his immature, petulant acts have diminished, the real knock on his game is his penchant for disappearing in the biggest moments and his languid appearance on the pitch.
It often looks like he doesn't put in the necessary work when his team is not in possession.
The Reward Outweighs the Risk
The fact that Brendan Rodgers managed to snag a player of Balotelli's quality for under £20 million speaks volumes of just how savvy that particular move was in this inflated transfer market.
Even if the player doesn't prove to be an influential factor on the pitch, his worldwide popularity will benefit the club immensely in a marketing sense.
Besides the barrage of media headlines surrounding his every move, expect Super Mario to be a positive signing overall for the Reds.
If everything doesn't go to plan, the club can still sell the young Balotelli to a club that could be desperate for talent at an increased price.
Balotelli Will Play in His Real Position
Having watched every Balotelli match over the past few seasons, it's clear to see that the player's real position is not as a No. 9.
He isn't a target striker, he isn't particularly adept at holding the ball up and he doesn't make clever movements inside the box like a poacher would.
Rather, he has underrated creative ability, a fearsome shot from distance and is one of the finest set-piece takers in European football.
Balotelli is capable of nailing the top corner from as far as 40 meters out, but he needs to play off another striker to truly be at his best.
He'll Link Up Well with Sturridge
Instead of being seen as the substitute for Daniel Sturridge, it would be interesting to watch both the England international and the Italian together on the pitch.
The two have very different characteristics and could complement each other nicely. Balotelli could pick out a Sturridge run inside the 18-yard box to perfection. The English striker has searing speed and makes clever movements in and around the penalty area.
Meanwhile, Balotelli likes to float around the opposition's box, drifting wide and trying to receive the ball from a more retracted position near the center of the pitch.
With so many matches to play this season at Liverpool, Balotelli will get his chances with and without Sturridge in the lineup.
He'll Score More Than 15 Goals in All Competitions
Last season, Balotelli managed 18 goals in all competitions with a Milan side enduring their worst campaign since the early 1980s.
The lack of creativity in Milan's midfield certainly hampered Balotelli, but he can expect plenty of service at Liverpool as there are a host of creative players both in the midfield and on the wings.
With Milan, Balotelli lacked a real deep-lying playmaker or creative threat who could pick him out in space and make his life easier when he ventured around the box.
He'll have four different competitions at Liverpool to give him the chance to shine and score goals, so expect a decent tally from the Italian international.