|Date of Birth||
12 August 1990
|Place of Birth||
1.89 m (6'3")
Mario Barwuah Balotelli (born 12 August 1990) is an Italian international footballer who played as a striker for Liverpool between 2014 and 2016.
Following the departures of Iago Aspas and star striker Luis Suarez at the end of the 2013-14 season, Brendan Rodgers looked to redevelop his forward options for the coming season. He quickly signed Rickie Lambert from Southampton and a number of other forward players, however Rodgers openly discussed a need for the club to compensate for the loss of Suarez with a player of proven quality in the centre forward position. During the Reds pre-season tour of the USA in July 2014, Rodgers had spoken glowingly of Balotelli in the run up to Liverpool's clash with AC Milan, leading the media to link the big striker with a switch to Anfield, however Rodgers responded by saying Balotelli would "categorically" not be a Liverpool player. Liverpool went on to be linked with moves for players such as Radamel Falcao and Edinson Cavani, however on 21 August 2014, it was widely reported that Liverpool had indeed agreed a deal with AC Milan to sign Balotelli.
On 25 August 2014, Liverpool confirmed the signing, for a reported fee of £16,000,000. The Italian became the club's ninth signing of the summer, and chose to wear his favoured number 45 shirt for the club. Rodgers said: "This transfer represents outstanding value for the club and I think we have done a really smart piece of business here. There is no doubting Mario's ability; he is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level. He has scored goals in the Barclays Premier League, in Italy, in the Champions League and for his country at international level."
Balotelli said: "I'm very happy. We've been talking about coming here and I'm happy to be here. Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England. The football is very good here. It's a great team with young players, and that's why I came here. Now that I play for Liverpool, I can see the expectation in people. They're very happy and that makes me very happy at the same time."
Although many acknowledged a degree of risk involved in signing a player with a chequered disciplinary history, the signing was met with huge excitement from the Liverpool fanbase, with a large number lining the entrance to Melwood to catch a glimpse of Balotelli when he arrived for his Liverpool medical. Shortly after completing his move, Balotelli travelled to Manchester City to watch his new teammates face his former club at the Etihad Stadium. He made his debut on 31 August 2014, in Liverpool's 3-0 win away to Tottenham Hotspur. He netted his first goal for the club on 16 September 2014, in Liverpool's Champions League comeback match at home to Ludogorets, after a five year absence from the competition. Late into the match, Balotelli controlled a cross from Alberto Moreno in the box, turned his defender and struck past the goalkeeper with the outside of his boot. The goal put Liverpool 1-0 up, and they proceeded to win the match 2-1.
Balotelli struggled to find the net again in his coming matches for the Reds, as his teammates also struggled to produce convincing displays and acquire many positive results. Balotelli came under increasing fire for his lack of productivity, which became particularly substantial on 19 October 2014 as he sent a ball high over the net from just a few yards out in front of an open goal in Liverpool's 3-2 away win over QPR. He finally netted his second Liverpool goal two games later, on 28 October 2014 in the Reds' League Cup tie at home to Swansea. Coming off the bench with Liverpool trialing 1-0, Balotelli connected with a Fabio Borini cross to prod in an equaliser, with a 2-1 win eventually being sealed.
In December 2014, Balotelli caused controversy by posting an image to his Instagram account that was considered to contain racist sentiments. Despite apologising for the post, the FA suspended Balotelli for one game. He was also recovering from a muscle injury sustained on international duty at this point. He made his comeback on 29 December 2014 as a late substitute in Liverpool's 4-1 win over Swansea at Anfield.
After failing to make many of Liverpool's matchday squads, Brendan Rodgers was quizzed on the situation with Balotelli. The manager responded by suggesting that Balotelli was failing to sufficiently impress in training for selection. Despite this, Balotelli's agent publicly stated that Balotelli was happy at Liverpool, had a good relationship with Rodgers and was determined to improve his standing at Liverpool. Balotelli subsequently made a substitute appearance in Liverpool's League Cup semi final second leg tie away to Chelsea, a match that the Reds lost 1-0.
Balotelli finally opened his Premier League goalscoring account for Liverpool on 10 February 2015, netting the winner with a tap in from an Adam Lallana cross as the Reds beat Tottenham 3-2 at Anfield. In Liverpool's next game- an away tie to Crystal Palace in the FA Cup on 14 February 2015- Balotelli came on at half time and helped the Reds overcome a 1-0 deficit to win 2-1. In the 58th minute, Balotelli's fierce free kick was parried by 'keeper Julian Speroni allowing Adam Lallana to slot in Liverpool's second goal.
Balotelli helped Liverpool claim victory for the third game in a row with another substitute display on 19 February 2015 in the Reds' Europa League tie against Besiktas. With the score at 0-0 and just five minutes left on the clock, Jordon Ibe won a penalty that Balotelli converted. This incident actually came with considerable controversy, as Balotelli appeared to take the ball off of captain Jordan Henderson who was initially keen to take the spot kick. Steven Gerrard- watching the game as a pundit on ITV- criticised Balotelli for showing Henderson disrespect. Henderson however said he was happy to let Balotelli take responsibility.
In the summer of 2015, it was made clear that the Italian would not be a Liverpool player at the end of the transfer window, with reports linking him with moves to Italy, Asia and even fellow Premier League team Watford. On 25 August 2015, exactly a year after he signed for Liverpool, AC Milan confirmed that they had signed Balotelli on loan for the upcoming season.
After another disappointing season, scoring just one league goal for Milan, Balotelli returned to Liverpool for pre-season. The Italian was sent to train with the U23s and was not included in the squad for the club's pre-season tour. On 31 August 2016, Balotelli's disastrous spell at Liverpool was finally ended, signing for French side Nice on a free transfer.
Balotelli ended his time at the club having made 28 appearances, scoring just 4 goals.
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