Football

Liverpool to target Balotelli to replace Suarez?

Rodgers' praise for Balotelli fuels speculation Italian is Reds' top target to replace Suarez

Is Mario Balotelli on his way back to the English Premiership?

Anfield may be a possible destination for the controversial Italian after Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers heaped praise on the former Manchester City striker as the Reds continue their search for Luis Suarez's replacement.

Rodgers is in the market for a new striker after a proposed move for Queens Park Rangers forward Loic Remy fell through due to a failed medical.

Ahead of his side's friendly with AC Milan in North Carolina this morning (Singapore time), Rodgers said that Balotelli has all the qualities required to be a world-class striker.

"Balotelli is a big talent," Rodgers said. "I saw that in this time at Inter Milan as a young player and obviously going to Manchester City when we had a real close eye on him there.

"He's got all the qualities. He's 1.89 metres, he's quick, his touch is terrific and he can score goals. He went back to Italy to play and he's still so young (24 on Aug 12).

"If his focus is right, his concentration is right and he leads the lifestyle of a top player, then he can play for any team in the world."

If Rodgers is indeed eyeing a move for Balotelli, he must have been boosted by comments from Arsene Wenger that Arsenal will not be signing the Milan striker this summer.

The Italian has been regularly linked with a move to north London but Wenger rubbished the rumours yesterday.

"For weeks, we were buying Mario Balotelli from one minute to the other and it was all wrong," Wenger said.

"We do not master all the noises that come out. I don't want to give you any names but, at the moment, we are not after anybody in particular.

"Are we close? It depends on what you call close. What I call close is imminent. On that front, we are not close."

With last season's Premier League top scorer Suarez having departed for Barcelona in a £75-million ($158m) deal, Rodgers' options up front are considerably lighter.

SIX SIGNINGS

He has made six signings so far this summer, bringing in strikers Rickie Lambert and Divock Origi, midfielders Adam Lallana and Emre Can, winger Lazar Markovic and centre back Dejan Lovren.

Lallana will miss the first few weeks of the season with a knee injury, though, while Origi has been loaned back to Lille for the coming season as part of the deal that brought him to Anfield. While the depth of his squad has improved significantly, Rodgers is still short of a marquee signing to take over the departed Uruguayan's mantle.

The club are expected to tie down deals for Spanish fullbacks Alberto Moreno and Javi Manquillo, but Rodgers is still searching for another striker as he prepares for the club's return to the Champions League.

"We won't have too much business to be done, but we still have a few areas we want to strengthen," Rodgers said.

"It's just purely on the back of us having a really thin squad last season, we were very short and it was incredible what we achieved last year.

"We need to make sure we have the freshness so there's still one or two areas to look at. There is no point mentioning numbers or positions, we want to strengthen a couple of positions and if we can do that I'll be really happy.

"This trip has been a great chance to come away, improve fitness levels and reintroduce some of the tactics into the team.

"The new players have settled in quickly. That's a great credit not just to just them but also to the team. There's no egos here and the spirit in the team is very strong." - Wire Services.