While numerous figures from outside the Liverpool camp have spoken of the risk associated with the signing of Mario Balotelli, Jon Flanagan believes the striker’s arrival will provide a massive boost to the team.
Having played two-and-a-half seasons at Manchester City before leaving for AC Milan in January 2013, the 24-year-old Italian international is now back in England after a £16 million move to Anfield, as the club bid to replace the 31-goal impact of the departed Luis Suarez.
While his previous Premier League stint was blighted with various instances of questionable behaviour, both on and off the pitch, Flanagan believes Balotelli is a more mature character now and, after witnessing him score 30 goals in 56 games during his 18 months in Milan, is excited at the prospect of lining up alongside him.
‘I think he’s older and wiser now,’ he said, whilst taking part an event for Liverpool fans with special needs.
‘I think he’s come here knowing what Liverpool’s all about, and I think he’s going to be a great signing for us.
‘His recent record with AC Milan speaks for itself. He scored a lot of goals there, and I think he’ll bring the same to this team.’
With Liverpool going to great lengths to strengthen their squad for the new season, Balotelli becomes the club’s ninth summer signing, following the arrivals of Rickie Lambert, Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren, Emre Can, Lazar Markovic, Divock Origi, Javi Manquillo and Alberto Moreno, with their spending now at around £115 million.
Spanish full-backs Manquillo and Moreno are set to battle with Flanagan for first team minutes once he returns from the knee injury suffered in pre-season, but the 21-year-old England international is relishing the competition.
‘I can’t wait to get back,’ he added. ‘It was just a bad time for me to get injured in pre-season, so I can’t wait to get back going now.
‘We’ve brought top-class talent in, including a few full-backs, so I’ll just continue to work hard to show the manager what I can do again.’
Is Balotelli a changed character since his last Premier League spell?