x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Mario Balotelli move makes waves with several clubs including his old one, Manchester City

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini said Mario Balotelli could be the “perfect” fit for Liverpool – but thinks they will still miss Luis Suarez.

Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was not around during Mario Balotelli’s first run through the English Premier League. Pellegrini says the Italian, right, will be a good fit for Liverpool but is not a replacement for Luis Suarez.  Andrew Yates / AFP
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini was not around during Mario Balotelli’s first run through the English Premier League. Pellegrini says the Italian, right, will be a good fit for Liverpool but is not a replacement for Luis Suarez. Andrew Yates / AFP

Manchester City manager ­Manuel Pellegrini said Mario Balotelli could be the “perfect” fit for Liverpool – but thinks they will still miss Luis Suarez.

Liverpool are close to a £16 million (Dh97.5m) deal to bring controversial former City forward ­Balotelli to Anfield as a replacement for departed Suarez.

Suarez scored 31 goals for the Merseysiders last season and has left big boots to fill.

Turning to Balotelli, who earned notoriety during his two-and-a-half years at City for his erratic behaviour, appears a gamble by manager Brendan Rodgers.

But Rodgers seems to have recruited well in his other transfer activity this summer and Pellegrini thinks Balotelli could ­deliver.

Pellegrini, whose spell at the Etihad Stadium began after Balotelli’s departure for AC Milan, said: “They will always miss Luis Suarez because he is a very important player but they have brought a lot of important new players and continue being a very strong squad also.

“I think Mario Balotelli is a very good player. He went here from Manchester City to Italy but I think he can play everywhere he wants.

“I know the character of Mario Balotelli – everyone that is involved in football knows about him. If Liverpool decide he is the player that is important for them, perfect for them and perfect for Mario.”

Balotelli will not be registered in time to face his old club City on Monday.

The champions host Liverpool at Eastlands in a meeting of last season’s top two sides in the Premier League.

Rodgers, while refusing to talk specifically about Balotelli, has warned that no incoming player will be allowed to threaten the “fantastic environment” at the club as Balotelli’s proposed transfer to the Merseyside outfit apparently edges closer.

Balotelli flew to England yesterday ahead of a medical. A key aspect of discussions between Liverpool and Balotelli’s agent – said to have taken place on Thursday evening, continued yesterday and progressed well – is believed to be the club’s desire to obtain assurances about the erratic forward’s behaviour.

While Rodgers – who looks set for a remarkable about-turn after insisting three weeks ago that he “categorically” would not be signing Balotelli – was unwilling to refer to the player by name yesterday, he did emphasise there is an “extensive code of conduct” at Anfield to which the 24-year-old Italian must adhere.

Initially asked about Balotelli at his press conference to preview the clash with City, Rodgers said with a smile: “I can categorically tell you that I can’t speak about it until the player is signed.

“If we sign anyone, I will speak at length about them, but until then I can’t say anything.”

Rodgers did, though, then speak about the standards of behaviour expected at Liverpool and his determination to protect them, indicating that Balotelli would be subject to the same rules as everyone else at the club.

“I think every club will have a code of conduct for the people and professionals who work [for them],” he said. “We have quite an extensive code of conduct for players and staff – there is no specific one for any one individual.

“We have a fantastic environment here and a great culture, and I think it is something that was very important for us to create and build here.

“There will be nothing that will ever shake that or provoke it in any way. It is something I always protect at the club.”

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