BRENDAN Rodgers believes Mario Balotelli needs time to adapt at Anfield but showed on the clubâ€™s Champions League return he is willing to meet the demands required of a Liverpool striker.
Balotelli opened his Liverpool account on Tuesday with an impressive goal in the 2-1 defeat of Ludogorets Razgrad and, despite the occasional loose touch and misplaced pass, produced the kind of hard-working display not commonly associated with the 24-year-old during his time with Internazionale, Manchester City or Milan. It was only the Italy internationalâ€™s third appearance for Liverpool since his Â£16m arrival from Milan and Rodgers conceded his teamâ€™s fluency has been affected by the injury to Daniel Sturridge and the integration of several new signings.
The Liverpool manager was encouraged by Balotelliâ€™s work rate against the Bulgarian champions and is confident the striker can adapt to the relentless style Rodgers has developed at Anfield. â€œAs a coach you will always have players who are high maintenance and players who are low maintenance for different reasons,â€ he said. â€œHeâ€™s a good boy and I think you can see that heâ€™s prepared to work.
â€œYou saw his work rate against Ludogorets and, OK, the ball has bounced off him a couple of times and weâ€™re trying to improve him in the transitions so that when he makes a mistake he can go after it, but I think you can see what heâ€™s trying to put in for the team. Thatâ€™s going to be very important. The crowd demand that because the players whoâ€™ve been here in the past in that position have been non-stop and heâ€™s becoming attuned to that. Heâ€™s aware of the demands and itâ€™s going to take time but if he continues to score goals and work hard like he has done then he will be fine, because heâ€™s obviously got the quality.â€
Rodgers had publicly instructed Balotelli to â€œscore goals, create goals and work hardâ€ before the difficult encounter with Ludogorets, who were seconds from a merited draw at Anfield when the stand-in goalkeeper Milan Borjan conceded a needless penalty. The manager admits impressing on Balotelli the effort he requires from his strikers but claimed the Italian is aware of the expectation, having studied Luis SuÃ¡rez among other Liverpool forwards.
Rodgers said: â€œHeâ€™s really looked into the history of the club. He understands the great strikers of the past. Weâ€™ve spoken about SuÃ¡rez and his time here but if youâ€™re clever youâ€™ll remember heâ€™s still young and still learning the game and he still has this hunger to do well.
â€œYou saw his work on Tuesday; heâ€™s put his body on the line and he needs to do more of that but I think that will come as he gets fitter. But heâ€™s well in tune with the history of Liverpool.â€
Tuesday also brought Balotelliâ€™s first 90-minute appearance for Liverpool, following a 61-minute debut at Tottenham Hotspur and 71 minutes against Aston Villa on Saturday, and Rodgers detects the strikerâ€™s sharpness is growing by the game. â€œIâ€™d always planned to keep him on,â€ he said. â€œI took him off in the previous two games and I think it was about building up his games. Heâ€™s been working well. He was ill in the buildup to the Villa game but we needed him so he was up to 70 minutes in that game. Heâ€™ll get fitter with games and the idea is just to persist with him.
â€œHeâ€™s a good reference for us and heâ€™s improving with each time he trains and plays. It was a brilliant finish, great technique and that was exactly what we needed at that time â€“ a bit of genuine Champions League class and he showed that.â€ – The Guardian