x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Managers are divided over 'volatile' Craig Bellamy

The Welshman did not work well with Roberto Mancini at Manchester City, but Kenny Dalglish is delighted to have him at Liverpool.

Liverpool’s manager, Kenny Dalglish, left, says Craig Bellamy is a ‘brilliant professional’.
Liverpool’s manager, Kenny Dalglish, left, says Craig Bellamy is a ‘brilliant professional’.

The late Sir Bobby Robson might have phrased it best. "A great player wrapped around an unusual and volatile character," was how he described his Newcastle United striker, Craig Bellamy.

As his present and past employers meet today, the two managers might each agree with half of that statement.

From Kenny Dalglish, there was nothing but praise. Roberto Mancini could be forgiven for feeling rather more fearful.

Combine the immutable law of the ex with Bellamy's incessant desire to prove people wrong and the reunion with the Welshman could be explosive.

Bellamy ranked among Manchester City's outstanding players in the 2009/10 season but, as a disciple of Mancini's predecessor Mark Hughes, he was loaned out to Cardiff City last season and allowed to join Liverpool on a free transfer in August.

A reputation as a troublemaker has dogged the 32 year old, but Dalglish believes it is utterly unfair.

"He's a brilliant professional," the Scot said. "Even when he was 17 years of age at Norwich, he sacrificed most of his wages to go and get weights to put in a garage somewhere to try to build himself up because he knew he had to strengthen himself up.

"He's made a huge contribution on and off the pitch here. What he did elsewhere, I don't know. I'm not really interested."

Bellamy's fractious relationship with Mancini was caused in part by his persistent knee problems that led the forward to ask for his own training schedule.

There is a theory that the much-travelled Bellamy has not taken kindly to life on the bench at other clubs but he has been limited to two league starts for Liverpool and has not objected, according to his manager.

"He's more understanding now about his profession and also about himself," Dalglish said.

He restored Bellamy to the side for last week's win at Chelsea and the former City favourite's energetic display suggests he will feature against his old club.

Mancini's men have suffered their last two league defeats on Merseyside and April's 3-0 loss was especially galling, with a hamstrung Carlos Tevez limping off five days before their FA Cup semi-final against Manchester United.

Dalglish knows, however, that Liverpool face a side much improved since that rather one-sided game.

"Tevez was a big miss when they never had [Sergio] Aguero," he said. "They never had the same strength last season as they've got this year."

He is accustomed to managing clubs with high expectations and gave Mancini his endorsement. "In the Premier League, he is in the position every other club wants to be in and that's top," he said, adding with typical dryness: "Eleven wins out of 12 isn't a bad start. The number of points they've got and the start they've had tells you that they are for real."

Dalglish has personal experience of taking a club from comparative obscurity to win the Premier League. He inherited a second tier Blackburn Rovers side and made them champions in 1994/95. Comparisons with City are, he insists, misplaced.

"It's a complete and utter mismatch," he said. "It was a good line for people to write that we were spending fortunes. We weren't."

Dalglish broke the British transfer record when paying £3.3 million (Dh18.7m) for Alan Shearer, but he was subsequently sold for £15m.

"You can't tell me Blackburn never made a profit on any of the big ones," he said. "They improved the balance sheet."

 

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