Mario Balotelli has not enjoyed the best of times since returning to English football last summer.
The 24-year-old is yet to open his Premier League goal account for Liverpool and has fallen some way short of repeating the title-winning form he displayed during a previous spell at Manchester City.
The Reds should be looking to persevere with their big-money signing, though, according to lifelong supporter and fellow frontman Adebayo Akinfenwa.
He acknowledges that Balotelli is something of an enigma and can frustrate at times, but it is that ability to produce the unexpected which the AFC Wimbledon striker believes makes the Italy international such an intriguing asset.
At an event to promote the release of the EA SPORTS FIFA Ultimate Team of the Year on January 12th, with Akinfenwa, Rio Ferdinand, Kyle Walker and Joey Barton making their selections based on the Official FIFPro World XI, a man who enjoys cult status among football fans as the strongest player in EA SPORTS FIFA 15 told HITC Sport: “I’m a Balotelli fan in the sense that he has had to deal with a lot of stuff in his life. He has to deal with a lot of attention because of who he is. I do think people forget he’s young as well.
“Sometimes he doesn’t help himself but you can’t knock the clubs he’s played for. I’m a big fan of him. He’s a game-changer.
“Once you have invested in somebody, I don’t think you should throw them to the side. Liverpool just need to keep persevering and as long as he keeps working for the team, then hopefully you get a happy medium and you get the Balotelli we know on a more consistent basis, rather than once every 10 games.”
While reluctant to see Liverpool cut their losses on Balotelli, Akinfenwa acknowledges that there is work to be done on Merseyside, with it important that Brendan Rodgers finds players capable of following in the footsteps of local heroes such as Jamie Carragher and Steven Gerrard.
He added: “That sort of club, with that history, I think they do need some home-grown players, some players that know the history and passion and everything that goes into the club.
“Foreigners or other players that come from different clubs don’t really know the history, it’s not as important to them as the likes of Gerrard and Carragher who have lived it, breathed it. I think there is something there. They just need characters.”
Finding such players is easier said than done, but Liverpool must keep looking.
A top-four finish in the Premier League is not beyond them, and they remain in League and FA Cup competition, so if the right tweaks can be made in January and the best can be summoned from struggling stars such as Balotelli, then the 2014/15 campaign could still end up being one to reflect on fondly.
The EA SPORTS FIFA Ultimate Team of the Year is available from January 12th. Build, manage and play as your own team of stars in FIFA Ultimate Team today! Start your Ultimate Team today at easports.com/uk/fifa/ultimate-