Four months into the season and Brendan Rodgers is still defending his decision to spend £16 million on Mario Balotelli.
The Liverpool frontman is doing little to help his manager’s cause, with below-par performances leading to widespread criticism and questioning of the logic behind recruiting a man who has wavered wildly between the sublime and ridiculous throughout his career.
Rodgers was hoping that he could bring the former out of the fiery Italian on a regular basis, with the Anfield boss prepared to take a ‘calculated risk’ at the end of the summer transfer window.
He has admitted in the past that his hand was forced as striking options began to dwindle and he sought to avoid being left short in a key area following the departure of Luis Suarez to Barcelona.
Rodgers has now reiterated that stance and has refused to waver in his belief that Balotelli was the right deal at that time, with there no regrets on his part at having snapped up a player who still possesses match-winning ability.
He said in the Liverpool Echo: “No. I think as a club we felt that was the solution at the time.
“In the summer, we had Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini was looking as though 100% he was gone. Obviously Daniel (Sturridge) has shown in his career so far that he gets injuries. So it would be unfair to leave Rickie Lambert, a 32-year-old, as the only striker we had.
“I felt this (Balotelli) was a risk we needed to take and as a group we couldn’t afford not to at the time. It was obviously late on and we need to have someone in.
“It’s something that we can’t regret. I made it clear at the beginning it was a calculated one and that is why he probably cost the money that he did.”
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The question facing Rodgers and Liverpool now is: how long are they prepared to keep backing Balotelli before their patience snaps?
Another window of opportunity is fast approaching and there may be a chance to move the 24-year-old back to Serie A – amid talk of interest from Sampdoria – and pump any funds generated into the pursuit of an alternative option.
If Rodgers really is convinced, though, that the former Manchester City striker can do the job – especially when Daniel Sturridge is fit again to provide support – then he would be advised to stick to his guns and keep plugging away with those he has placed considerable faith in.