Soccer

Gerrard’s Balotelli reaction underlined by his blunt training ground demand

Steven Gerrard was apprehensive about Liverpool signing Mario Balotelli from minute one.

The striker, who made his name in England with Manchester City, returned to British shores when he moved to Anfield in 2014.

Balotelli's quality was undoubted, but his temperament and attitude had long drawn criticism.

Liverpool were looking for a Luis Suarez replacement following his departure to Barcelona, yet had missed out on several of their top targets.

Brendan Rodgers accepted he needed to take "a gamble" and informed Gerrard, then club captain, of his decision to pursue the Italian.

He said: "In my last season, Brendan Rodgers came to me at Melwood one day in mid-August. We had a chat on the training pitch.

"He said, 'You know we've missed out on a couple of signings. I'm basically left with no option but to have a bit of a gamble.'

"Brendan paused before he spoke again: 'The gamble is Mario Balotelli.' My instant reaction was, 'Uh-oh.'"

The transfer ended up costing Liverpool £16m, but it was far from a successful relationship.

Rickie Lambert joined from Southampton in the same summer and too endured a difficult Anfield period.

The striker though recalled how Balotelli's lacklustre attitude in training upset several people, including Gerrard, with the club iconic telling Rodgers not to pair him up with the Italian.

Lambert told the Straight From the Off podcast : “My head went with him in training and I had to go in and say to Brendan ‘don’t put me on his team again’. I think Stevie had said the same.

“His head would just go. If it wasn’t going his way, he would just ruin the session basically. He’d kick the ball away, score an own goal.

“I was speaking to Joe Hart and the lads at England and they were like ‘he was like that at City’. I’d ask them ‘how did he get away with it?’. They just shook their heads.”

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