The Liverpool boss reveals he had an hour-long chat with the Italy striker over his role in the team, and insists he will have to work hard to fit into the current style of play
Brendan Rodgers admits he overlooked Mario Balotelli for Liverpool‘s FA Cup fourth round 0-0 draw with Bolton Wanderers at Anfield because the Italian forward is not working well enough in training and does not fit in with his current style of play.
Balotelli was “not well” in the past week and, as such, was not available to be selected for the League Cup semi-final first-leg against Chelsea on Tuesday.
However, he was fit for selection for Saturday’s match but Rodgers opted against bringing him in despite the continued absence of Daniel Sturridge due to injury.
“I’ve had a chat with Mario,” Rodgers told the press. “He knows exactly what’s required to be in this squad before he can be in the team. He is available, like the rest of the team. We had about an hour or so yesterday chatting. I think he understands where it’s at.
“He was out for a week or so, not well, obviously wasn’t available for selection in midweek and last week. It’s difficult for him. He knows now the level of what this team is at. You see the pressing in our game, the aggression in our game. If you can’t do that, then you’re not going to be part of what this team is trying to achieve.”
Rodgers says Balotelli has learned a lot about what is expected of him at Anfield due to the team’s recent performances, and will return to the matchday squad when he demonstrates a greater work ethic in training.
“He probably sees the real Liverpool over these last six or seven weeks and he understands just what is required to get into the team.
“Of course, I’m judging it every day in training as well. Mario is exactly the same as every other player. There’s no special treatment for anyone. Fabio Borini, Rickie Lambert, they’re working tirelessly for me in training and when they go on they’ve contributed. I have to judge it on that.
“We suffered as a team in the first four odd months of the season or so. We can’t go back to that. There’s been a change structurally in the team to allow that pressing, that creativity to come back.
“He is a player that will work very hard now to get back in. It doesn’t matter who the player is, what price he came with or what he was bought for. It’s a collective team, it’s about the team, and if you want to contribute then you have to be at it every single day in training in order to be in the squad for a matchday.
“He was fully understanding. He has seen the level of our performance against Chelsea and in fairness to him he actually said that was a struggle for him in terms of how he would play the game because he’s naturally a box player, really. But there’s much more asked of this team, the intensity of the team.”