Though Mario Balotelli has gotten off to a terrible start at Liverpool, it has become clear that many fans, pundits and even some people at his own club are all too eager to blame all of the problems currently plaguing Liverpool on the new guy with the reputation for trouble. This was perhaps most evident in Liverpool's 3-0 loss to Real Madrid in the Champions League.
With that said, here's everything that Balotelli is being blamed for...
The entire first half
Real Madrid toyed with Liverpool in the first half, scoring three goals in a span of 18 minutes. As has been the case throughout much of the last two seasons under Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool's defending against Madrid was like colander being used to plug up a fire hose. So, Rodgers decided to make a change at halftime and that change was to replaced Balotelli with Adam Lallana.
Though Balotelli was largely anonymous during those first 45 minutes, he certainly wasn't responsible for the three goals. He is, after all, a striker. But the act of taking a player off at halftime is putting a neon sign over his head that reads "this guy is the problem." After Balotelli came off, Liverpool scored the same number of goals as they did with him on the pitch, though. None.
Said Rodgers of the substitution after the match:
"[It was] just tactical. I felt that we needed a bit more intensity and someone to create through the middle and occupy their centre-halves a wee bit more.
Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti seemed to have a very different assessment of Balotelli's performance, though. From Football Italia:
“Have we completely lost Balotelli? I thought in the first half he was the player who most attacked the space and tried to create problems for us,” Ancelotti told Sky Sport Italia.
“His performance was absolutely not to be scrapped tonight. Can he give more? I don’t know, but he wasn’t the worst performer this evening.”
That's not exactly a glowing endorsement, but it doesn't put an entire team's weakness in attack and lack of intensity down to one man, either.
Swapping shirts with Pepe at halftime
Before Balotelli was removed from the game, a television camera caught him swapping shirts with Pepe as they headed for the tunnel at halftime.
For a surprising number of people, this hardly unheard of act of casual sportsmanship is more offensive is equivalent to a war crime. And Brendan Rodgers is, of course, one of those people. From TalkSport:
"That's the first I've heard of it but if that's the case then I wouldn't like it. It's something that I don't like to see, I've seen it happen in other leagues and other countries but it's certainly something that doesn't happen here and shouldn't happen," the Northern Irishman said.
Former Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro disagreed. But in the eyes of Premier League elitists, he's just another foreigner who is clueless to the intricacies of burdening the game with outrage over meaningless nonsense.
Fabio Cannavaro: "I know people like to create controversy over Mario Balotelli, but to criticise swapping shirts is just crazy." #LFC
— footballitalia (@footballitalia) October 22, 2014
Then again, swapping shirts with Pepe at any point is legitimately offensive. That's like trading phone numbers with Hannibal Lecter.
Raheem Sterling's fatigue
A lot was made of Raheem Sterling being tired during the last international break and now we know that it's entirely Balotell's fault. Even though Madrid had the match won long before the final whistle, Rodgers still had Sterling play the full 90 minutes — something he was forced into doing because he had to take disaster artist Balotelli off at halftime (and Jordan Henderson and Philippe Coutinho off in the 67th minute). So Mario is not only letting down himself and his team, he's also single-handedly ruining the careers of his teammates.
Even though Balotelli was playing in a different country at the time, he is the only explanation for the Gerrard slip that proved to be a key moment in Liverpool coming up short in the title race last season. Mario is, after all, a noted prankster, so he probably tied live eels to the bottom of Steven Gerrard's boots just for a giggle.
Qatar hosting the 2022 World Cup
Who bribed the FIFA executives to give the 2022 World Cup to Qatar? Mario Balotelli, of course. Qatar probably didn't even want to host it, but since Balotelli did this all on his own, they figured they might as well go along with it and violate the human rights of their laborers to build a bunch of stadiums in support of Mario's efforts. And you watch — he'll probably swap shirts with a villainous opponent at halftime of the final that year, too. So you might want to start practicing your horrified reactions now.
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