Balotelli-Why Me

Can Mario Balotelli replace Luis Suarez; turn Liverpool into title contenders?

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On Monday Liverpool did what everyone told them they should do all summer long: replace Luis Suarez.

After selling their prized Uruguyan assest to Barcelona for $128 million in July, Brendan Rodgers used that money to bolster his squad with talented, but not talismanic players, for the Premier League and UEFA Champions League challenge ahead. However, he neglected one area… until now.

[RELATED: Balotelli signs for Liverpool]

Mario Balotelli is back in England, as Liverpool signed up the enigmatic Italian forward for $26 million from AC Milan. That’s a bargain for a player of his caliber. It is a high risk, high reward buy from Liverpool as Rodgers will look like a genius if it comes off, but if Balotelli’s old ways return, there will be an ‘I told you so’ moment. What could possibly go wrong?

Balotelli, 24, starred for Manchester City as a youngster, scoring 30 goals in 80 appearances for the Citizens between 2010-13. His antics on and off the pitch, we will get into that shortly, mean he isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but you can’t argue with his play.

[VIDEO: How will Liverpool cope without Suarez?]

On his day Balotelli is one of the most powerful, exhilarating and clinical marksmen in world soccer. Liverpool have taken a risk to get him on board at a snippet of what he should actually cost. Balotelli has baggage but in recent years he has matured and is certainly worth the gamble Liverpool have taken. Are Liverpool genuine title contenders now that Balotelli is on board? Absolutely.

Without Suarez, many wondered where the goals would come from for the Reds. Sure, Daniel Sturridge scored 21 in the PL last season but aside from him, veteran Rickie Lambert is their only other option up top. Balotelli has PL experience and if he can play as the lone front man with Sturridge underneath him, the duo have the potential to form a pacey, powerful and deadly partnership. Forget S.A.S. what about Balo & Studge? Balotelli’s arrival suggests Liverpool will be there and there abouts when all is said and done this season. Many, including myself, were questioning their top four credentials after failing to nail down a direct replacement for Suarez. Now they have Balotelli, he could hold the key to another title charge, as Liverpool have jumped ahead of Arsenal as the main rivals to Chelsea and Manchester City for the PL crown.

[RELATED: Profile – Mario Balotelli]

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Balotelli posing for a ‘selfie’ with pitch invaders during AC Milan’s U.S. tour.

Losing Suarez’s 31 goals was set to hit Liverpool hard and in their opening game against Southampton, they looked less dynamic going forward but sturdier at the back. With Steven Gerrard and Lucas sitting in front of a new-look back four, the Reds may still take a more cautious approach this season compared to the 101 goals they belted in during the 2013-14 campaign. However with Balotelli on board, they have that ‘x-factor’ back that Suarez provided. Balotelli is the kind of player who will go missing for large chunks of games but then, bang, he will crash in a volley or go on an electric run to tear through the opposition defense.

Alongside Sturridge he would add a real physical presence up front and the fact that Balotelli prefers to drift in and out of midfield, pop up on the wing and get on the ball will suit the way the Reds play. In their fluid 4-3-3 formation, Balotelli can slot into a number of positions but he would thrive as the lone forward. With Philippe Coutinho, Sturridge and Raheem Sterling buzzing in around his flick ons, the Reds could once again rip opposition defenses apart. Against Saints on the opening day, Liverpool looked slightly stagnant going forward. By hook or by crook, Balotelli will get things going. He isn’t afraid to shoot and has scored 30 goals in 54 games for AC Milan over the past season-and-a-half. Mario also isn’t afraid to lash out against teammates, opponents and his manager. With that in mind, Sturridge and Suarez would often shout at each other during Liverpool games last season and be rather annoyed. Balotelli won’t stand for that and it will be very interesting to see how his relationship with Sturridge develops in the early months. Rodgers and his coaching staff will have to put an arm around Balotelli and make him feel loved if they’re going to get the best out of him.

[RELATED: Can Liverpool replicate success?]

In many ways, Balotelli was the final piece of the jigsaw for Rodgers after an impressive summer rebuild. Liverpool needed to bolster their defense, so in came Dejan Lovren, Alberto Moreno and Javier Manquillo to try and offset the goals lost by Suarez by hopefully conceding fewer. Yet a talismanic forward was still missing. Well, until ‘Super Mario’ arrived.

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Source: Liverpool FC

Was it a gamble to take Mario on board? 100 percent. On the pitch he can lose his head, get silly red cards, sulk and will frustrate the heck out of fans. However, ask any Manchester City fan what they think of Balotelli. They all love him. His enigmatic figure, along with his talent, has taken him to stardom. The man who was allergic to grass, shot fireworks out of his bathroom window, posts pictures of himself dancing, reading a book and ironing, plus plenty of other crazy moments are just the tip of the iceberg as we try to unravel the mystery of Mario. Suarez was obviously a genius on the ball but his biting obsession, alleged racist insults and other issues off the pitch made him a volatile character. Balotelli is in the same mold as Liverpool’s former Uruguayan frontman and has the potential to become as much of, if not a bigger, cult hero than Suarez was at Anfield.

One of Balotelli’s finest, and most memorable moments, sums him up. After scoring for City against arch nemesis Manchester United at Old Trafford in 2011, Balotelli lifted his shirt to reveal a simple message. ‘Why always me?’ Well, Mario, it’s because your talent promises so much and your temperament threatens to derail it.

Without doubt Balotelli is one of the most interesting characters in world soccer and now he will lead Liverpool’s charge for silverware. He is the man they were missing and perhaps the only player crazy enough to think that he could replace Luis Suarez. If he can do it, Liverpool may have just got the bargain of the past decade. If not, everyone will blame Mario. That’s just the way it works.

Update on Hull’s Ryan Mason after he suffered a fractured skull

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 22: Ryan Mason of Hull City lies injured after the collision with Gary Cahill of Chelsea during the Premier League match between Chelsea and Hull City at Stamford Bridge on January 22, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
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Hull City have released an update as to the status of midfielder Ryan Mason.

[ MORE: Pulisic signs new deal ]

The 25-year-old was injured in an aerial collision with Gary Cahill during Hull City’s 2-0 defeat at Chelsea on Sunday and it has been revealed that he fractured his skull.

Mason is currently at St Mary’s hospital in central London receiving treatment and he and his family have been visited by John Terry, Cahill and assistant manager Steve Holland of Chelsea.

Here’s what Hull had to say early on Monday about Mason’s current condition as he recovers from surgery.

The Club can confirm that Ryan has been visited this morning at St Mary’s Hospital by Club Captain Michael Dawson, Club Doctor Mark Waller, Head of Medical Rob Price and Club Secretary Matt Wild. Ryan has been speaking of the incident yesterday and will continue to be monitored at the hospital over the coming days where the Club will remain in close contact with Ryan, his family and the staff at St Mary’s.

Ryan and his family have also been extremely touched by the overwhelming support they have received  and would very much like to thank all of those who have posted such positive comments both on social media and in the press over the last 24 hours.

Tributes have poured in for Mason from across the soccer world following the horror injury after what looked like an innocuous aerial challenge with Cahill.

USMNT’s Christian Pulisic extends deal at Dortmund

Dortmund's Mario Goetze, left, celebrates with Christian Pulisic after scoring the first goal of his team during the Champions League Group F soccer match between Legia Warsaw and Dortmund at Stadion Wojska Polskiego in Warsaw, Poland, Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016. (AP Photo/Alik Keplicz)
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U.S. national team star Christian Pulisic has signed a new deal at Borussia Dortmund.

Pulisic, 18, has extended his stay at the Westfalenstadion until 2020 and his new contract will end speculation surrounding his future at the Bundesliga giants.

In the past two transfer windows Pulisic has been linked with a move to the Premier League with Liverpool reportedly interested in his services but the young playmaker will remain with Thomas Tuchel’s side for the foreseeable future.

This season he has made 19 appearances for Dortmund in all competitions, scoring twice, and has become a regular started in the UEFA Champions League.

The Hershey, Pennsylvania native continues to be one of the most coveted young stars on the planet and after rising rapidly through the youth ranks at Dortmund he will continue to develop in a team which is renowned for not only giving talented youngsters a chance to shine but also nurturing them.

Pulisic has scored three goals in 11 appearances for the USMNT and will be a key part of Bruce Arena’s team in the 2018 World Cup qualifiers in March.


Wayne Rooney wants to remain at Man United, for now

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LONDON — Wayne Rooney became Manchester United’s all-time leading goalscorer on Saturday but his 250th goal for the Red Devils has inevitably thrown up plenty of questions about his future at Old Trafford.

[ VIDEO: Rooney’s best goals for United ]

Rooney, 31, was honored by the Football Writers’ Association at a tribute dinner in London on Sunday at the Savoy Hotel and spoke at length about his future with reports continuing to link him with a big-money move to China in the coming months and his manager Jose Mourinho saying the club won’t stand in his way if he wants to move on.

[ MORE: World reacts to Rooney’s record ]

Speaking with Sky Sports before the event Rooney revealed that although he isn’t happy at only playing a bit-part role at United this season under Mourinho, he is happy to stay at the club.

“I’m committed,” Rooney said. “I have been at the club for a long time. Football is a strange game. Anything can happen and things change very quickly but I am happy at Manchester United. Of course, as I have said before, I want to play more games. I am in a happy place, a good moment personally, so I think I have a year, with an option year to go. We will see what happens and what happens after that.”

Before going on stage to accept his award at the glitzy event, former England manager Roy Hodgson and current West Bromwich Albion captain (and Rooney’s long-time United teammate) Darren Fletcher spoke about the striker glowingly.

Rooney, now the all-time leading goalscorer for both England and United, posed for photos and signed autographs all night long.

He seemed overwhelmed with the award and it capped off a crazy 24 hours which saw him break Sir Bobby Charlton’s record to become United’s all-time leading scorer, celebrate the first birthday of his youngest child and then head to London for the tribute dinner alongside his wife Coleen.

Speaking to the FWA members (which included yours truly) and guests, Rooney also called for the media and players to come closer together in the future to help out the English national team.

“The media is a massive part of football and I’ve seen firsthand since I’ve become captain of Manchester United and England,” Rooney said. “I’ve recognized it has had a huge influence on the game and the players and especially the young English players because they are the ones who have to go out and perform. It’s tough. I also feel like it is sometimes a bit unfair. The one thing I think, for me, that should happen is we need to realize and the media need to realize that at this moment in time there is a huge gap between the media and the players. I think the quicker the media and players can come together and meet in the middle, then the better it is for English football.”

Much has been said about Rooney throughout his career but you cannot deny his quality and supreme goalscoring ability which will see him go down as a legendary figure for both England and Manchester United.

If he doesn’t end up in China in the not so distant future, he will have offers flooding in from the rest of the world.

MLS: Le Toux to join D.C., Timbers set to acquire Myers and more

Sebastien Le Toux, Tony Beltran
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Two teams are set to bring in experienced players ahead of the new season, while another veteran has said his goodbye to his former club.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverage ]

D.C. United has reportedly signed veteran forward Sebastian Le Toux after spending last season with the Philadelphia Union and the Colorado Rapids.

According to SB Nation’s Black and Red United, Le Toux has inked a one-year deal with D.C. United. Le Toux has scored 57 goals in his time in MLS, with 50 of those goals coming with the Union.

Le Toux has also previously played for the New York Red Bulls, Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders.


Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers are reportedly set to sign long-time Sporting KC defender Chance Myers, who spent the last nine seasons with the Western Conference side.

The 29-year-old had made 147 appearances for Sporting KC since joining MLS, while adding two goals over that span.


Dax McCarty posted a heartfelt message to New York Red Bulls fans, players and staff following the veteran’s move to the Chicago Fire.

The midfielder was recently traded to the Eastern Conference side after the spending the last five-and-half years with the Red Bulls, where McCarty served as the team’s captain.