eWhen a footballer scores a potentially winning goal just seven minutes from the end of normal time during a 3-2 thriller in a high-profile game, it is normally the signal for a rather joyous celebration by both player and team. It would appear that Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli defies the norm and his muted reaction to a first Premier League in Liverpool colours on Tuesday evening was the behaviour of a player seemingly not enjoying his football career on Merseyside.
Balotelli was signed by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers from AC Milan for £16 million during the 2014 summer transfer window as part of a squad strengthening exercise in preparation for extra European fixtures this season. With Luis Suarez departing for Barcelona, Liverpool needed extra firepower in attack.
In a colourful and at times controversial career at both Inter and AC Milan plus a spell at Manchester City, the Italian striker has shown an eye for a goal with a very respectable strike rate and claimed the winning goal when Italy beat England 2-1 in the 2014 World Cup.
Rodgers decided to gamble on the talents of Balotelli but was aware that he was no direct replacement for the energetic Suarez. Since that summer signing, the Italian has been beset by injury, loss of form and personal issues but unfortunately very few goals, with one netted in a Champions League group tie and another scored against Swansea in a Capital One Cup game.
The attitude of Balotelli has been questioned as has the judgement of Rodgers with rumours of a departure back to Italy surfacing during the January transfer window. The Italian has been accused of displaying a selfish attitude and playing to the cameras rather than for the team and trying to unlock the undoubted potential of the former AC Milan player has generated a real challenge for the Liverpool manager.
As Balotelli replaced the tiring Daniel Sturridge after 74 minutes of the match on Tuesday evening, Liverpool and Tottenham were drawing 2-2 with either team capable of securing the available three points. Less than 10 minutes later, a cross from another substitute Adam Lallana was met by Balotelli in front of goal and he stroked the ball past Spurs goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
There was neither a smile nor any show of emotion from the Italian and the brooding Balotelli strode of the pitch at the end of play with barely an acknowledgement to the home fans or the other players.
It can certainly be argued that Mario Balotelli is a difficult person to understand with assertions that he does possess a sensitive nature but such behaviour when scoring a vital winning goal will not endear him to the local Liverpool fans and can be viewed as a sign of disrespect. He may have finally scored his first Premier League goal in a red shirt but he still needs to prove that his heart belongs in Merseyside.
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