Struggling Balotelli has to work harder: Fowler

Struggling Balotelli has to work harder: Fowler

The enigma that is Mario Balotelli divides dressing rooms, football fans and even three former Liverpool stars.

Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Emile Heskey each have their take on Anfield's latest goal-scoring hope, who is once again making headlines for all the wrong reasons at his fourth club in seven years.

Brought in to replace Luis Suarez, Balotelli has just two goals in 14 appearances in all competitions - and has yet to score in nine English Premier League outings.

Former Reds winger McManaman was blunt in assessing the Italian with the mohawk, who has looked lost and disinterested at times up front.

"He was the wrong signing from the start - he's nowhere near as good as Suarez, and he isn't even getting shots in at goal from what I've seen," said McManaman, a two-time Champions League winner with Real Madrid.

The 42-year-old is in town with a host of former Reds favourites like Fowler, Heskey and Patrik Berger for the Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters match at the Jalan Besar Stadium this Saturday.

Balotelli, a £16 million (S$33 million) signing from AC Milan, has spurned advice and help from his previous managers, Jose Mourinho and Roberto Mancini.

But he might want to listen to Fowler, the sixth-highest scorer in EPL history (183 goals).

"Mario has got to help himself and work harder - if his team-mates aren't creating chances for him, then he should drop back for the ball and run at defenders," said the 39-year-old Liverpool native.

"Mario is a very, very good player. I have so much belief in (coach) Brendan Rodgers getting the best out of him."

Perhaps no one has felt the pressure and pain of delivering in front of the Kop more than Heskey.

An affable character who toiled to win aerial duels and harass defenders, the former England international managed to score more than 10 league goals in just one of his five seasons at the club.

The 36-year-old believes Balotelli is burdened by the responsibility of filling Suarez's scoring boots, a cause not helped by the injury woes of strike partner Daniel Sturridge.

He said: "The poor guy is expected to carry the team on his own after just moving to the city.

"It will be a massive weight off his shoulders once he gets that first league goal.

"He can express himself a little bit more and, then, you will see the best of Mario Balotelli."

This Saturday, Jalan Besar will play host to the best of Liverpool's past, who will square off against a Singapore line-up led by Fandi Ahmad, V. Sundramoorthy and Steven Tan.

The 80-minute friendly will also serve as a testimonial for former national striker Aleksandar Duric, 44, who hung up his boots at the end of this season after a prolific S-League career spanning three decades.

As a surprise, organisers flew in his Bosnia-based brother Milan, 45, whom he has not met for nine years.

Duric, a seven-time S-League champion, said: "It will be a very special day for me in front of my family, my fans and, of course, the Liverpool legends. I could not have asked for a more beautiful way to cap off my career."

Event details

What: Castlewood Group Liverpool Masters (limited tickets available at www.ticketbooth.com.sg)

When: Saturday, 7pm

Where: Jalan Besar Stadium

Who's playing

Liverpool: Jerzy Dudek, Stephane Henchoz, Bjorn Tore Kvarme, Steve Harkness, Phil Babb, Jan Kromkamp, Emile Heskey, Michael Thomas, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman, Vladimir Smicer, Ian Rush, Patrik Berger, Dietmar Hamann, David Thompson, Jari Litmanen

Singapore: Fandi Ahmad, V. Sundramoorthy, Malek Awab, Shahri Rahim, Lim Tong Hai, S. Subramani, Aide Iskandar, Nahar Daud, Steven Tan, Nazri Nasir, Rafi Ali, Rezal Hassan, Dalis Supait, Zulkarnaen Zainal, Aleksandar Duric, Syed Farur

nsanjay@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 13, 2014.
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