In defence of Mario Balotelli - an easy and sometimes puzzling target for criticism

Balotelli In Italy Kit

Mario Balotelli hasn't had the easiest of times ever since he arrived at Liverpool from Milan.

When Liverpool completed the signing of Mario Balotelli from AC Milan for £16 million in the summer, a lot of eyebrows were raised.

He's been described as a maverick, lazy, sulky, selfish. There are plenty of other words that have been used to describe the former Manchester City striker.

There is the saying 'there is no smoke without fire', but I feel the need to cut the Italian a little bit of slack, and feel that the criticism of him has been unwarranted, including from his manager Brendan Rodgers

Having read a fair few opinion columns during the course of the season, one is Robbie Savage's in the Mirror and it doesn't take a lot of searching to find his opinion on the Italian - he he has not been too complimentary about the Italian this season.

Let's be honest, Balotelli wasn't the main problem earlier on in the campaign when the Reds were in the bottom half of the table, even if he only found the net on two occasions during the first half of the season, and not finding the net in the Premier League until February. Only the four clean sheets prior to Christmas in the Premier League had a lot to do with Liverpool's troubles!

It's his first season in a new side where he is one of many new players. Four goals so far this season isn't the best return, and there have been times this season where his attitude has rightly been questioned - I can think of a display as a substitute in the 4-1 win over Swansea City in December, which can only be described as 10 minute sulk.

There have been occasions when he has shown sparks of ability and shown what he can do. He didn't have a bad game in the Merseyside derby in September and was unlucky not to get on the scoresheet in the 1-1 draw, he's had a few cameos from the bench of late and at times his work rate has looked pretty impressive. 

The puzzling aspect from Brendan Rodgers during that run was that he wasn't happy with Balotelli's work rate after he scored a penalty in the Europa League against Besiktas. If he wasn't happy with the Italian's work in the dying minutes of that game, then the rest of the side should have been subject to the same treatment as they were clearly trying to see the game out. He did no less than any other of the 10 shirts on the field during that period of the game.

The latest of the high profile critics was Mark Lawrenson yesterday. Balotelli was again a substitute, blazed a shot high, wide and handsome and didn't particularly shine - though he did cause problems when one-on-one with a defender and perhaps should've done better with another opportunity.

As the Liverpool Echo also pointed out, the timing of the criticism was strange after he labelled Balotelli 'an absolute waste of space' - maybe the 25-year-old should be given the right of reply and asked about Lawrenson's performance as a pundit after a period where he hasn't featured on the BBC.

But it was a poor performance, and Balotelli seems to be the main scapegoat in what was a poor and tired performance from the team as a whole, but it's indicative of the kind of treatment he has been given this season.

Not all of the criticism is unwarranted, I have few qualms about him as a fan. But I think there are times he looks more lost than lazy, and that he can make the wrong decision - but you can almost guarantee if Liverpool don't win a game they're expected to, then Balotelli's more often than not in the firing line.

It does beg the question - is he being given a fair crack of the whip at Liverpool? One does wonder.

FIFA World Cup 2018FIFA 2018 World Cup Russia - click here for all of our coverage...

Register for LIVERPOOL team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch