Mario mischief: Shirt-swapping Balotelli to face action from Brendan Rodgers
As if being down by three goals against Real Madrid this morning (Oct 23) wasn't enough for Reds manager Brendan Rodgers, Mario Balotelli was seen swapping shirts with Real Madrid defender Pepe while heading into the tunnel.
Though the incident comes as no surprise to those who know Balotelli, it has left Rodgers livid.
Speaking to Sky Sports, the Liverpool boss said: "That's the first I've heard about it and I wouldn't like it.
"It's something that doesn't happen here, it shouldn't happen here."
This is not the first such incident Rodgers has faced with his team.
Last season, Reds defender Mamadou Sakho was seen exchanging kits with Chelsea forward Samuel Eto'o during a defeat at Stamford Bridge.
"We had a case of a player doing that last season, which I dealt with, and if that's the case again then I'll deal with it again," said Rodgers.
Balotelli, who endured a dismal first-half performance was subbed off for Adam Lallana after the interval. The decision to take off Balotelli though, was purely tactical according to Rodgers, who was not aware of the shirt swapping incident at the time.
"I needed more movement centrally to occupy their centre halves and I felt Raheem Sterling's speed would give us that. In the second half you could see every player pressing and working – for us that's the minimum. Lallana came on and did it very well," said Rodgers, according to a report from Daily Mail Online.
Balotelli's future bleak?
Rodgers was not the only one critical of Balotelli. Ex-Reds defender Jamie Carragher told Sky: "Do I think he's going to be here long-term? No, I'd be surprised to see him here next season if I'm being honest. Rafa Benitez was here a few years, bought Robbie Keane and sold him in January. It might not be that quick but I'd be surprised if Mario Balotelli is at the club next season."
Jamie Redknapp, a pundit at Sky Sports, shifted the spotlight of Balotelli's actions to the manager. According to The Guardian, he said: “I don’t blame Mario Balotelli – I blame Brendan Rodgers for bringing him here. How he thought he could turn around a player that Mourinho, Mancini, Prandelli have all washed their hands of …
“There’s a reason when you go to the supermarket and things are half price. Why on earth they went for him, I’ll never know. They should have just left him alone. The fact he (Rodgers) went and got him, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
The defeat to Real Madrid leaves Liverpool languishing in third place on the table, with questions also being asked about the team's sloppy defending, beyond the shenanigans of the not so Super Mario.
Here are five of Balotelli's maddest moments:
Bad first impression
Just days after signing for Manchester City, Balotelli hit the headlines after crashing his Audi R8 en route to the club’s training ground. He was found to be carrying £5,000 (S$10,200) in cash at the time of the accident and when police asked why, he reportedly replied: “Because I am rich."
Balotelli once again showed his lack of maturity when it emerged he threw darts at City youth team players through a training ground window in March 2011. No one was hurt in the incident and he escaped punishment.
Fireworks off the pitch
Balotelli had a run-in with the emergency services in October 2011 after a firework was set off in the bathroom of his home, triggering a fire.
The next day, he scored in the Manchester derby and celebrated by revealing a T-shirt which read: “Why always me?”
Bizarre prison break
Mario and 17-year-old brother Enock were arrested strolling through the grounds of a women’s prison in Brescia, near Milan, in October 2011.
Balotelli is said to have told police that curiosity got the better of him and he “just fancied having a look”.
Banned after Parker stamp
Balotelli was charged with violent conduct by the Football Association, and subsequently handed a four-match ban, after appearing to stamp on the head of Tottenham’s Scott Parker during a Premier League match in January 2012.
Source: Skysports, Daily Mail Online, The Guardian, AFP