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Juventus star Pirlo says Liverpool-bound Balotelli is a changed man

Andrea Pirlo Italy vs England

Juventus and Italy superstar Andrea Pirlo has claimed that Liverpool-bound Mario Balotelli is a changed man ahead of his switch to Anfield.

The Reds are close to wrapping up a £16 million deal for the talented and temperamental AC Milan striker, with opinions very much divided on the move.

Former Manchester City striker Balotelli has a lengthy list of past controversies, which include setting off a firework in a bathroom, throwing darts at youth team players, and a bizarre episode in which he was questioned by authorities after driving into a women's prison out of curiosity.

Despite the obvious issues surrounding Balotelli's controversial nature, the fee represents a fairly cheap option for the Reds as they look to replace Luis Suarez, who departed for Barcelona for £75 million last month.

In a transfer window that has seen Shane Long move from Hull City to Southampton for £12 million and Championship star Jordan Rhodes set for a big-money switch from Blackburn Rovers to the Tigers - the deal for the Italian international is good business by manager Brendan Rodgers.

And World Cup winner Pirlo believes that his international teammate has ditched the behavioural problems that have blighted his career so far, and he also thinks the Rossoneri forward can finally become one of the top strikers in European football.

The Mirror quotes Pirlo as saying: "Mario has matured since he has been back in Italy. He will be the first to admit when he was younger he made some mistakes - but he is not that player anymore.

"I have always said that in the right environment he has the potential to be one of the best strikers in Europe. The time has come to write only about what he does on the field."

Balotelli's move will take the Reds' spending up to around £117 million and Rodgers finally has the strength in depth that he has craved since their qualification to the Champions League was assured last season.

The threadbare Liverpool finished second last term to eventual champions Manchester City, and Rodgers had always planned to beef up his squad with quality prior to Suarez's exit.

However, the Uruguayan's move has largely offset the biggest summer spending spree in the club's history, and Balotelli will become the ninth arrival at Anfield.

The Northern Irishman has bolstered his ranks with the likes of Javi Manquillo, Emre Can, Adam Lallana, Rickie Lambert, Lazar Markovic, Dejan Lovren and Alberto Moreno - while Divock Origi will join next summer after his year-long loan stay with Lillle is over.

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