Balotelli 'a target' because of Liverpool form - Richards

Micah Richards feels Mario Balotelli is unfairly criticised due to Liverpool's poor campaign.

Mario Balotelli has become an easy target due to Liverpool's bad season, according to former team-mate Micah Richards.

Balotelli was criticised throughout the 2014-15 season after netting just four goals in 26 appearances in all competitions for Brendan Rodgers' side.

The Italy international was just part of the problem at Liverpool, who finished sixth and eight points off the final UEFA Champions League place.

Fiorentina defender Richards, a league champion with Balotelli at Manchester City in 2011-12, said the 24-year-old was an easy target.

"I love Mario. I still speak to him now. I think he's a great player too," Richards told the Daily Mail.

"At City he was probably still a bit immature. He then came back to Italy and developed more. He impressed at the World Cup.

"But now he's at a club [Liverpool] where everyone seems to have an opinion. And when the team wasn't doing well, he's become a target."

Richards said he was likely to leave Fiorentina, where he is on loan from City, at the end of the season.