Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has insisted that striker Mario Balotelli needs to prove himself in training for him to consider his selection.
The Italian was unwell last week during the League Cup semi-final first-leg against Chelsea on Tuesday, but was fit for Liverpool’s FA Cup tie against Bolton on Saturday. But Rodgers was hesitant on fielding Balotelli despite the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge.
Talking to the press, the Reds’ manager said
“I’ve had a chat with Mario. He knows exactly what’s required to be in this squad before he can be in the team. He is available, like the rest of the team. We had about an hour or so yesterday chatting. I think he understands where it’s at.
“He was out for a week or so, not well, obviously wasn’t available for selection in midweek and last week. It’s difficult for him. He knows now the level of what this team is at. You see the pressing in our game, the aggression in our game. If you can’t do that, then you’re not going to be part of what this team is trying to achieve.”
Rodgers further explained that the Italian knows what is expected of him, and why he was overlooked in the favor of Fabio Borini and Rickie Lambert, emphasizing that he won’t walk into the starting eleven now that he is fully fit.
“He probably sees the real Liverpool over these last six or seven weeks and he understands just what is required to get into the team.
“Of course, I’m judging it every day in training as well. Mario is exactly the same as every other player. There’s no special treatment for anyone. Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert, they’re working tirelessly for me in training and when they go on they’ve contributed. I have to judge it on that.
“We suffered as a team in the first four odd months of the season or so. We can’t go back to that. There’s been a change structurally in the team to allow that pressing, that creativity to come back.
“He is a player that will work very hard now to get back in. It doesn’t matter who the player is, what price he came with or what he was bought for. It’s a collective team, it’s about the team, and if you want to contribute then you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad for a matchday.
“He was fully understanding. He has seen the level of our performance against Chelsea and in fairness to him he actually said that was a struggle for him in terms of how he would play the game because he’s naturally a box player, really. But there’s much more asked of this team, the intensity of the team.”
24-year-old Balotelli has struggled to settle in with the Merseysiders since his £16 million move from AC Milan, and is yet to find the back of the net in the Premier League.
Image Courtesy : The Express