Much has been said about Mario Balotelli and his current situation at his new club. Some say he was brought in by manager Brendan Rodgers to be a scapegoat for Liverpool’s current problems, while others criticised his signing with the reason that Balotelli simply doesn’t fit Rodgers’ system. With Balotelli’s current goalscoring drought, we look at some options that Rodgers could have took in his attempts to replace Luis Suarez.
The Croatian forward is a typical No.9: tall, athletic, strong in the air and able to bruise opposition defences. Having scored 33 goals in 54 appearances for Bayern Munich, the out-of-favour Mandzukic simply had to move to secure first-team football, especially with the arrival of Robert Lewandowski. Spanish champions Atletico Madrid lost their very own star man, Diego Costa, to Chelsea, and promptly replaced him with Mandzukic for £16 million. Mandzukic has fit well with his new side, teaming up with fellow new signing Antoine Griezmann to good effect.
mandzukic has the physical presence for the premier league
Mandzukic’s willingness to go up against opposition defenders would have benefited Rodgers’ side. With Mandzukic constantly giving problems to the opposition centre-backs, it could have created space for the Reds’ ball playing midfielders like Philipp Coutinho and Raheem Sterling. He would have also been a significant target to aim crosses at. Alas, Rodgers never even considered the big Croat, and he is now thriving in his new surroundings of La Liga.
Manchester United’s £6 million season-long loan signing is already off the mark in the league, something Balotelli is yet to lay claim to. The Columbian has also had to come back from a serious injury which ruled him out of the World Cup. Falcao’s willingness to run down the channels and in-behind defences would have helped replicate Suarez’s intelligent movements up front. His knack for poaching goals would have given Rodgers’ a huge threat in the penalty box that would undoubtedly worry the opposition side.
falcao’s finishing prowess would give any team that required edge
To be fair, the Anfield transfer committee might have been put off by his huge wages and long-term feasibility, as seen by the £43.5 million fee United would have to pay if they wished to make the Columbian a permanent signing. However, Rodgers could have viewed him as a short-term signing, as he awaits the imminent arrival of Divock Origi next summer. The £6 million loan fee is a small price to pay for a season’s worth of world-class goal poaching ability.
Once Real Madrid’s potential star is now plying his trade for Italian champions Juventus. With Carlo Ancelotti choosing Jese as Karim Benzema’s back-up, Morata was sold for £20 million, though with Madrid’s traditional buy-back clause. The Spanish youngster had scored 10 goals in 37 appearances for Los Blancos, which is a good record for a back-up striker and considering that he does not always play as the main striker.
morata could soon be spain’s premier striker
With age on his side, his huge potential and physique that suits the Premier League, Morata could have been the type of signing Anfield’s transfer committee was looking for. However, Rodgers could have been concerned with the buy-back clause, and how all their development could go to waste when Madrid comes back for their Spaniard. Again, Morata might have been another good short-term option while waiting for Origi to return from Lille.
The Italian striker shone in World Cup qualifying and scored an excellent 22 goals in 33 matches for Torino last season. Jurgen Klopp quickly snapped him up for Borussia Dortmund though, meaning the rest of Europe had little time and little chance to intervene. Immobile’s ability to play wide forward would have interested Rodgers with his preference for mobile and energetic frontmen.
Maybe it was the fear that Immobile would turn into the next Fabio Borini, but then again Immobile has the pedigree of being a regular goalscorer in Serie A, while Borini’s only had a decent goalscoring return at Roma before his move to Anfield. Further, Immobile is still very young and has much potential to grow into a top-class striker, so Rodgers might regret not moving for this Italian instead of the one he currently has to deal with.
One that did not move in the summer, and was indeed a firm target of the Reds, Bony has continued his good form with Swansea, scoring three goals this season. Bony’s athleticism and willingness to run the channels would have dittoed Suarez’s tactical play last year, and his proven goalscoring record in the Premier League meant signing him was a no-brainer.
With rumours brewing that Bony had a £20 million release clause, it is a wonder why Rodgers did not raid his club once again for this top-class centre forward. Maybe Swansea stood firm and was still bitter with Rodgers for the signing of Joe Allen two summers ago, but Bony would surely have been worth the effort and the perfect partner for Daniel Sturridge.
One that Liverpool did sign last season, but either had to or chose to loan back to French side Lille. If they had to loan him back, Rodgers could have simply forked out more money, probably a small fraction of the Balotelli money, to get Origi to start his career at Anfield at the first opportunity, during the past summer. Origi has three goals for Lille, and his movement and athleticism would have been very useful for Rodgers’ side.
However, maybe Rodgers was concern that Origi would be too lightweight for the Premier League at the moment, and maybe fearing that Origi would turn into the next David N’Gog. These concerns are perfect legitimate, and spending one more season at Lille playing regular football could help Origi and Liverpool in the long-term. Rodgers will hope that’s the case.
Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert
Okay, this duo is already at the club, but with Balotelli in such bad form, could Rodgers not have attempted playing this duo together? Borini’s work ethic, energy and willingness to run wide could complement Lambert’s more static positioning and play as a target man. One should note the good season Borini had with Sunderland last year, during the Black Cat’s relegation fight and run to the League Cup final, as he scored some crucial goals against the likes of Chelsea and Manchester United.
The inclusion of Lambert could be supported with his form for Southampton last season, and how he could combine with fellow signing from the Saints, Adam Lallana. Until the return to full fitness of Sturridge, Borini and Lambert could be supported by a midfield diamond. Both forwards would add much energy to the top end of the pitch, closing down defenders with more purpose, which is a crucial aspect of Rodgers’ high-press strategy. Right now, Balotelli’s reluctant pressing isn’t doing Liverpool any favours and actually undermines Rodgers’ desire to defend from the front.
What do you think? Should Balotelli be given more time to prove himself worthy of wearing the fame red jersey of Liverpool? Or should Rodgers just put some faith in his other forwards?