Rodgers eager to tame bad boy Balotelli, but will the Italian be Liverpool's Cantona?

Women love a bad lad and so does Brendan Rodgers, writes Jonathan Fadugba. But will the signing of Super Mario be the Liverpool boss's crowning glory? 

Google the phrase “said she can’t resist bad boys” and you come up with 29.1 million results. From broadsheet dating columnists to Taylor Swift, Cheryl Cole, Rihanna and everything between, it seems that not only are women irresistibly drawn to the smouldering complexities of the bad boy persona, but there is also a pretty extensive list of females ready and willing to admit it.

Among the many reasons posited by columnists and psychological bods to explain the theory that women can’t say no to a wild child, central to it is the idea that the gal feels she can change the guy. It plays to the ego, you see, making the bad boy devilishly appealing. This notion that she can be the one to turn his life around where others have failed is known in psychology as the ‘Messiah Complex’.

“When a woman falls for a 'bad boy’, she tells herself that she will be the one who can change him, so there’s an element of ego involved,” psychologist Jane McCartney told the Telegraph last year. Judith Woods, the journalist who wrote the piece, goes on to affirm: “It is true that we women love nothing better than rescuing damaged men.”

'Someone we can improve'

If Mario Balotelli is the ultimate bad boy, as is oft-portrayed, then having signed the Italian striker for £16 million - taking a chance described by some as a gamble and by others as absolutely insane – Brendan Rodgers is the ‘nice girl’ as Woods puts it, irresistibly drawn to big bad Balo because the Liverpool manager believes he can change him.

When the deal was announced, Rodgers’ comments were revealing. He praised Balotelli’s ability and intelligence but also stated the 24-year-old is “someone we can improve both as a football player and as a person.” This suggests that on a subsconscious level, the Liverpool boss sees Balotelli as much as a pastoral mission as a coaching one.

Mario Balotelli watches his new club lose to his old club at the Etihad Stadium

One of the summer’s most intriguing transfers therefore comes with a no less interesting side story. In a sense it’s the ultimate vanity purchase by Rodgers, an attempt by the Northern Irishman to enhance his own narrative – and perhaps ego – by proving himself as the one who succeeded where many others, including his mentor Jose Mourinho, failed. Rodgers wants to be the one who finally manages to tame football’s bad boy; the lifejacket to Balotelli’s sinking ship.

Rodgers’ first words on Balotelli were tongue-in-cheek. “Trouble!” he exclaimed on Sky’s Monday Night Football, grinning from ear to ear like the girl who’s finally got her man and must now figure out how to keep him. But a theme Rodgers consistently returned to in that interview was one centred around himself – talking up his track record with so-called troubled players, going back to his days in youth coaching.

“I’ve been a guy who gives players an opportunity all my life,” Rodgers told Sky. “I think most players I always like to sit down and look in their eye to see the honesty and the humility they have. I think when I sat with him, you know I spent about three-and-a-half hours just talking through Liverpool. I’ve read one or two bits that this is a make-or-break decision for me: I’ve done this all my life. I’ve taken players that people have written off and they’ve performed well.”

Though the deal makes obvious sense from a financial perspective – Balotelli has averaged almost a goal every other game since joining Manchester City in 2010 – Rodgers is taking a wager not just on the player but on his own ability to unlock Balotelli’s immense potential where others struggled.

While Mourinho eventually gave up on the man with the camo-print Bentley and indoor fireworks kit, describing him as ‘uncoachable’, and Max Allegri questioned his ability to work as a team player, Rodgers believes he’s the man who can get the best from him.

He’s begun by playing the ‘last chance at a big club’ card, exactly the same tactics he employed with Daniel Sturridge. Sturridge too arrived at Anfield with something of a bad-boy reputation (unfairly, we might add) and has been managed superbly by Rodgers, to the point where his goalscoring record after 50 games is the second best in Liverpool’s history.

Rodgers has already turned Daniel Sturridge's career around

All in the head

The psychological side of coaching is clearly an aspect that fascinates Rodgers. He works closely with sports psychiastrist Dr Steve Peters, an important part of Great Britain’s successful Olympic cycling team, to cultivate mental toughness in his players and will use every psychological trick in the book to try to tame Balotelli.

History dictates, however, that bad boys are not easily tamed. “The chances of a woman succeeding in changing a man so fundamentally are very, very slim,” wrote McCarthy, and at 24 Balotelli has already racked up big-money transfers with the speed Casanova accumulated lovers. Roberto Mancini promised to give Balotelli “100 chances if possible, if I think he can change,” after a training ground bust-up at Manchester City in early 2013 saw player and manager almost come to blows. Mancini relied on the tough love approach to try to change his bad boy but eventually conceded defeat. Weeks later he was sold.

Mancini treated Balotelli like a son. Not many transfers are signed off with words as warm as “We love Mario”, Mancini’s comments after an offer from AC Milan was accepted. But too often Mancini made Balotelli the scapegoat at City, giving him especially hard treatment when players like Carlos ‘Golf Holiday’ Tevez were handled far more leniently, at least in public. Balotelli was given too much stick, not enough carrot – an approach you can’t imagine Rodgers repeating. More likely it’ll be the other way round.

There’s a suggestion that Liverpool signing Balotelli could be Rodgers’ ‘Cantona moment’ – the final piece in the jigsaw at Anfield through a player whose infectious swagger inspires all around him. Perhaps he too can propel his team to a first league title in over two decades?

Can Balotelli be Liverpool's Cantona?

There are similarities between Balotelli and Eric Cantona. That cocksure attitude, the effortless cool, the hot temper and uncompromising bull-headedness to do things their own way. Like Balotelli, Cantona was written off and misunderstood, wandering from club to club before finding his true home. Equally, you can just imagine Balotelli scoring a last-minute winner or dispatching a decisive penalty in front of the away end at Old Trafford or Goodison Park and celebrating it à la Cantona against Leeds many moons ago.

But to reduce Cantona to a mercurial yet moody hothead would be misguided. Where Cantona and Balotelli clearly differed was in their professionalism and approach to the game.

Cantona’s arrival at Old Trafford heralded a completely new ethos at Manchester United. His dedication to training and willingness to put in extra work to perfect his technique long after the sessions had finished brought about a new professionalism that rubbed off on a golden generation of United youngsters, players who idolised Cantona and ‘followed him like the Pied Piper’ as United boss Sir Alex Ferguson described it.

Risky business

Balotelli’s arrival at Anfield may bless the club with bucketloads of self-belief and a renewed swagger, but can anybody really imagine the arrival of Liverpool’s No.45 ushering in a new era of dedication to training? If anything he could be a distraction.

Rodgers will be aware of all this. “With Mario the market was very limited in terms of what we could bring in,” he admitted. “The business was very good for us to take him in and we’ll see if it works. If not then at least we’ve tried. There’s no doubt there’s a risk with it but it’s a calculated risk.”

There’s been much talk of Balotelli’s overwhelming – potentially unbalancing – personality, the cult of Mario and the supposed troubles it brings. But in signing him, Rodgers is showing us he too has deep levels of self-belief. The Liverpool manager is essentially gambling his club's fortunes on the premise that his own persona is strong enough to take on – and tame – Balotelli’s.

If the gamble succeeds it will be a masterstroke, and Rodgers will have proved he can succeed where others failed – a shot to the ego like no other. If it fails he’ll be just another victim to have fallen for a bad boy’s charms and been left wanting.


SHARES
1 comment

Comments

fendi handbags
louis vuitton outlet stores
jordan shoes
oakley outlet
true religion outlet
bottega veneta outlet
true religion outlet store
coach outlet store online
abercrombie fitch
trye religion outlet
louis vuitton outlet
hair straightener
louis vuitton bags
kate spade handbags
louis vuitton outlet
cheap oakleys
ray ban outlet
chanel bags
coach factory
ray ban outlet stores
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton
toms outlet
fitflop sandals
celine paris
louis vuitton purses
juicy couture perfume
bottega veneta
fitflop outlet
ray bans
louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton purses
red bottom shoes
nfl jerseys wholesale
cheap louis vuitton
christian louboutin sale
fendi outlet
mont blanc pen
abercrombie and kent
gucci handbags
kate spade
hair dryer
celine outlet
jordan retro
kate spade purses
nfl jerseys
tory burch outlet
true religion jeans outlet
louis vuitton outlet
cheap jordans
mont blanc fountain pen
true religion jeans outlet
christian louboutin shoes
coach outlet store online
louis vuitton neverfull
bottega veneta handbags
louis vuitton sunglasses
louis vuitton speedy
michael kors handbags
michael kors handbags
louis vuitton outlet
celine handbags
joe abercrombie
ralph lauren outlet
louis vuitton outlet store
hollister clothing
michael kors outlet online
ray ban sunglasses outlet
ray ban sunglasses
jordan shoes
mont blanc legend
fitflop footwear
trye religion outlet store
kate spade outlet
toms shoes
chanel online shop
true religion jeans
burberry outlet
oakley sunglasses wholesale
michael kors purses
cheap toms
ray ban sunglasses
louis vuitton outlet stores
toms outlet
burberry scarf
louis vuitton
workout plans
louis vuitton outlet
louis vuitton shoes
marc jacobs outlet
jordans for sale
coach outlet
mont blanc legend
fitflops clearance
louis vuitton handbags
fitflop sale
cheap ray ban sunglasses
louis vuitton uk
oakley suglasses cheap
true religion jeans
cheap nfl jerseys
toms promo code
ray ban wayfarer
christian louboutin outlet
michael kors outlet
crossfit workouts
louis vuitton belt
jordan retro
ray ban outlet
fitflops
hollister outlet
louis vuitton purses
louis vuitton belts
louis vuitton purses
cheap jerseys
kate spade handbags
abercrombie and fitch
nfl football jerseys
prda outlet
ray ban aviators
mont blanc fountain pens
prada handbags
kate spade outlet
gucci bags
ray ban sunglasses
hermes outlet
gucci outlet store
fitflop footwear
jordan 11
coach outlet usa
michael kors outlet online
abercrombie
oakley outlet
louis vuitton outlet
hollister co
hermes delivery
christian louboutin
louis vuitton handbags
jordan for women
coach factory outlet online
louis vuitton wallet
michael kors handbags
fendi purses
oakley sunglasses
oakley glasses
fendi bags
tory burch flats
louis vuitton purses
used louis vuitton
louis vuitton
louis vuitton bags
christian louboutin outlet
michael kors outlet online
coach outlet
hollister kids
toms shoes outlet
marc by marc jacobs
prada shoes
true religion
louis vuitton speedy
chanel handbags
true religion jeans
coach factory online
polo outlet
cheap jerseys from china
coach outlet
chi flat iron
insanity workout
marc jacobs
michael kors outlet
cheap jordans
oakley sunglasses
true religion jeans men
p90x workout schedule
hollister promo code
celine luggage tote
ab workouts
coach factory outlet
louboutin
red bottoms
louis vuitton wallet
designer handbags
kate spade
michael kors purses
toms shoes
tory burch outlet
true religion sale
michael kors outlet
polo ralph lauren
nfl jerseys
air jordan shoes
celine bag price
michael kors watches
louboutin shoes
louis vuitton handbags
mont blanc pens
fitflop shoes
michael kors bags
fendi
fitflop sandals outlet
ray bans
cheap jordan for sale
workout routines
christian louboutin sneakers
tory burch handbags
coach handbags
jordan sneakers
cheap oakley sunglasses
trye religion outlet
chanel outlet
hermes belt
louis vuitton outlet
ray ban glasses
burberry bags
bottega veneta bags
louis vuitton
louis vuitton usa
mont blanc pens
tory burch outlet online
fitflop outlet
marc jacobs handbags
louis vuitton bags
louis vuitton handbags
juicy couture
gucci outlet
michael kors backpack
ralph lauren home
hermes birkin
cheap nfljerseys
true religion
prada bags
chi straightener
chi hair straightener
true religion jeans
louisvuitton
www.louisvuitton.com
ralph lauren
cheap ray bans
bottega veneta outlet online
football jersey
ray ban sunglasses wholesale
tory burch flats
louis vuitton outlet store
kate spade outlet store
louis vuitton purses
kate spade factory outlet
louis vuitton officail website
louis vuitton handbags
toms shoes sale
fitflops clearance
hermes bracelet
toms wedges
gucci shoes
cheap jordans
tory burch shoes
coach factory outlet
viva la juicy
tory burch outlet online
coach factory outlet
louis vuitton
christian louboutin
red shoes
louis vuitton outlet
juicy couture outlet
mont blanc mountain
toms sale
cheap true religion jeans
fitflop outlet
christian louboutin shoes
mont blanc pen
coach factory online
burberry handbags
jordan shoes
tory burch shoes
true religion jeans outlet
true religion outlet
louis vuitton handbags
louis vuitton bags
fitflop shoes
oakley sunglasses wholesale
fitflops online
kate spade outlet online
coach factory
louis vuitton backpack
cheap jerseys
red heels
jordan 13