Brendan Rodgers explains how Liverpool failed after signing Mario Balotelli instead of Alexis Sanchez
Former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has admitted that signing Mario Balotelli was a gamble and it never quite worked out for him at Anfield. The Anfield club had signed Balotelli from AC Milan for £16m in August 2014 as a replacement for Luis Suarez who had moved to Barcelona.
Appearing as a guest on Sky Sports, the 42-year-old Northern Irish manager spoke about how decisions were made at the club when it came to transfers and how the final decision did not come down to him.
Liverpool had finished second in the 2013/14 season and were on the rise after a long period where they had not ualified for the Champions League in years. And after losing Suarez to the Spanish Liga giants, they were under pressure to sign a like-for-like replacement. Rodgers explained how he wanted to keep Suarez after coming so close to winning the Premier League title but couldn’t change his mind.
“Transfers were a group decision; it was certainly not something where I would have the sole final say,” Rodgers explained. “It's difficult because you want a player in but if the player is not on the list, you’d have to take someone.”
“It was a huge blow to lose Luis. I built the team around him. Ideally, after the second season when we'd just missed out [on the Premier League title], you keep your best players, add one or two and then hopefully go on and win it.
Suarez had claimed the Premier League Golden Boot that season with 31 goals in 33 matches – the best goals per game ratio in Premier League history.
“Unfortunately we lost a world-class player and you've seen his impact at Barcelona. I think his mind was made up.”
Rodgers wanted Alexis Sanchez to replace Luis Suarez
After Suarez moved to Barcelona, Alexis Sanchez decided to move on knowing full well that he would have no place in the starting lineup at Barcelona with Lionel Messi and Neymar also to compete with. And Rodgers tried to move in for the Chilean forward to replace Suarez.
Ultimately, Arsene Wenger would convince Alexis to join Arsenal after the 2014 World Cup and he would go on to score 26 goals in all competitons in his first season, helping the north London side retain the FA Cup and help the Gunners finish third. On the other hand, Liverpool missed out on Champions League football yet again and finished sixth.
Rodgers was convinced Alexis would have been a star at Liverpool and taken over from where Suarez left off with 32-year-old Rickie Lambert acting as a backup option up front.
“We needed a player who could press at the top, not just a goal-scorer, because Luis was giving us so much more than that,” Rodgers said. “The huge blow was that we thought we were getting Alexis Sanchez and that he’d be a like-for-like replacement, in terms of how he pressed the game and his aggression.
“We thought he’d be perfect, it’d be a smooth transition, and Rickie Lambert would come in and be an option if we needed something else in the game.”
Liverpool were under pressure after losing out on Alexis Sanchez
After losing out on Alexis, who Rodgers claimed wanted to live in London instead of Merseyside, Rodgers admitted the club were under pressure to bring in another striker instead of pinning all their hopes on Lambert. Although Daniel Sturridge was capable of leading the line, his fitness was also a cause for concern. Ultimately, the Reds decided to bring Balotelli back to the Premier League.
“We didn't get Alexis Sanchez and, bless Rickie, there was a lot of pressure on him when really that wasn't the plan. So we had to bring in someone. After the AC Milan game, I was asked the question and I felt Mario wasn’t someone who suited the profile of what we were after.”
Balotelli had scored 30 goals in three seasons with Manchester City but hit the same tally with Milan in only two seasons. With a history of not listening to managers and always having his way, it was a big risk signing the young Italian striker.
“Mario has big talent. I wasn’t thinking I’d be any different in terms of managers who’ve had issues with him but, at that moment, we didn’t really have another option. Come the end of the summer we were struggling to get in the type of player we wanted and the ownership thought this was a player I could develop.”
“It didn’t quite work for us and it cost us.”
Balotelli would only score 4 goals in all competitions and be loaned back to the Serie A outfit last summer.