Liverpool gamble on mischief-maker Balotelli to replace Suarez

Mon Aug 25, 2014 12:28pm EDT
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By Toby Davis

LONDON (Reuters) - Having just waved goodbye to a player who constantly courted controversy, Liverpool rolled out the welcome mat to Mario Balotelli on Monday, whose maverick if inconsistent talent is perhaps only rivaled by his ability to cause mischief.

Following the departure of Luis Suarez on the back of a third suspension for sinking his teeth into an opponent, the man Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has chosen to add bite to his forward line has his own lengthy charge sheet of misdemeanors.

The Italy international has all the natural attributes you could wish for in a center forward, with searing pace, power, a delicate touch, acute vision and a knack for attempting the improbable and producing the goods on the big occasions.

Yet the former Manchester City forward who left AC Milan for Anfield for a speculated fee of 16 million pounds is no stranger to controversy.

His 2-1/2-year spell at Manchester City was noted for training ground flare ups with colleagues including a well-documented confrontation with former boss Roberto Mancini when the pair had to be pulled apart.

Yet he is better known for some off-the-wall acts of brainless stupidity such as setting his house ablaze by allowing fireworks to be let off in the bathroom.

He also visited a women's prison just "to have a look round", went on TV in an AC Milan shirt while playing for rivals Inter and threw a dart at a Manchester City youth team player as a prank.

In isolation, these incidents could be funny. As it is, their volume and frequency suggest Balotelli could be a high-maintenance personality on Merseyside.   Continued...

Italy's national soccer players Mario Balotelli attends a training session at the Dunas Arena soccer stadium in Natal June 23, 2014.  Italy will face Uruguay on June 24.    REUTERS/Toru Hanai (BRAZIL  - Tags: SPORT SOCCER WORLD CUP)