Richard Hercock: Time will prove that misfit Balotelli is no ordinary player

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Mario Balotelli has not had a great start to his career at Liverpool.

DOWN BUT NOT OUT: Mario Balotelli has not had a great start to his career at Liverpool.

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It HAS been a hectic week with the FA Cup and League Cup taking centre stage this week.

But squeezed in between was a headline that grabbed my interest. It read ‘Balotelli is ordinary – Taarabt’.

Now the first three words I have seen alluded to before about a striker who burst on to the footballing scene at Inter Milan before a big-money move to Manchester City.

Despite scoring some impressive goals, and netting twice in the 6-1 demolition of city rivals United which would go a long way to City being crowned Premier League champions, Balotelli and trouble were never far apart. He spent a year back in his Italian homeland, at 
AC Milan, before Liverpool paid £16m to bring him back to the Premier League last summer. Just two goals in 15 appearances since – none in the Premier League – has hardly been the return Brendan Rodgers would have wanted.

Sometimes you get the feeling that the headlines for his behaviour and off-field antics overshadow what he does, or doesn’t do, on the pitch.

So the term ‘ordinary’ is fair comment in my book.

But since it came from the lips of Adel Taarabt, I almost choked on my cornflakes.

Last season, Balotelli and Taarabt were team-mates at AC Milan, but these days the latter is sat languishing in QPR’s reserves. Yes, the same player Rangers manager Harry Redknapp infamously ridiculed on TV for being unprofessional and overweight.

His only start came in the 1-0 League Cup shock at Burton and his two subsequent substitute appearances totalled 24 minutes.

Speaking to Italian TV channel Sky Italia, Taarabt said: “Balotelli? Everyone told me he was amazing and I played with him and I can say he is strong but he didn’t seem to me as though he was world class.

“He is an ordinary player, not a phenomenon. He is someone who has a strong shot but he doesn’t play for the team. And if he does, he doesn’t score as is the case right now at Liverpool.

“He’s had so many chances, from (Manchester) City to Milan, and he’s thrown them away.”

He is not the only one. Taarabt has immense talent, but obviously struggles to combine hard work with his silky skills.

Maybe he should spend more time on the training ground and less carrying out interviews with the Italian media.

And while I can never see the Morrocan midfielder solving his fitness conundrum, I can see Balotelli going on to prove he is no mere ‘ordinary’ player.

What better place to start showing that talent than at Anfield tomorrow when Arsenal come calling. This is my match of the weekend, and how Liverpool need a tonic after their 3-0 loss at Old Trafford last weekend.

The Reds actually played well, only goalkeeper David de Gea keeping out the visitors to prevent a much closer contest.

De Gea was another player who had his critics in his early days in England, but is now arguably the best goalkeeper in the Premier League.

While Balotelli may not even be the best striker at Anfield, he is under-performing at the moment and I expect to see much more before the season’s end.

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