Brendan Rodgers glad to have Mario Balotelli on board

The Reds signed the Italy forward from AC Milan prior to the transfer deadline last month.

Balotelli was the subject of racist abuse on Twitter recently.
Balotelli was the subject of racist abuse on Twitter recently.

LIVERPOOL MANAGER BRENDAN Rodgers said Monday that controversial striker Mario Balotelli had caused him no problems during his time at Anfield.

The Reds signed the Italy forward from AC Milan last month and the former Manchester City player, whose first spell in England was marked by a bizarre series of off-field incidents, scored his first goal for his new club in last week’s 2-1 Champions League victory over Ludogorets.

Then on Sunday, not for the first time in his career, Balotelli was the victim of racial abuse after reacting to Manchester United’ shock defeat by Leicester with a tweet saying: “Man Utd…LOL”.

Police have since confirmed they are investigating the matter and, as a result, Rodgers steered clear of the topic when speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday’s League Cup tie at home to Middlesbrough.

But, speaking about Balotelli, Rodgers said: “Every player is different and individual, and I have really enjoyed working with him so far.

“He is a good guy, he wants to do well for the club and he has shown me that he cares enough about the club (for me) to devote that time to him.

“For me, he is not complicated — he is a football player who wants to do well in his life and his career, and if he continues to give everything and work tirelessly for the cause, then there will always be an opportunity here for him.”

Liverpool, last season’s runners-up, have made an indifferent start to the season having seen 2013/14 top-scorer Luis Suarez leave for Barcelona.

Sunday’s 3-1 defeat by West Ham was Liverpool’s third loss in five Premier League games so far this season.

However, Rodgers said: “There is a natural transition in the group, and where there is that transition, there are little bumps along the way.

“Mario is one of a number of players we brought in and for them all, no matter how good their quality, it is going to take a wee bit of time to gel with the players that were already here.”

This term five-times European champions Liverpool are back in the Champions League but Rodgers insisted the Merseysiders could cope with the extra fixtures.

“We can be much better. We’re still looking to find our performance level. But it’s something I have no doubt (about).

“It’s a combination of continual hard work on the training field — working even harder — and looking to really ensure we retain that confidence.

“We haven’t defended well enough as a team. We’ve conceded eight goals, the majority of which could have been avoided.

“The weight of the jersey here is heavy for most players. That takes time. Once you adapt to playing for Liverpool, then of course you become that little bit more clear in your thinking.

“It hasn’t been a great start by any means, but I have worked with the team enough and I know the players and how they do respond. That honesty in the group and how hard they want to work, it gives me great hope.”

- © AFP, 2014

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