McAteer: Don't make Balotelli the scapegoat

Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli may be an easy target for criticism given Liverpool’s struggles, but Jason McAteer is urging fans to get behind their man instead.

The Italy international has struggled to fill the considerable void left by Luis Suarez, scoring just twice in 13 appearances following a £17.6 million summer move.

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But former Reds midfielder McAteer has chosen to side with the 24-year-old, saying the former Manchester City player is just missing the element of luck at the moment.

“Balotelli has become an easy scapegoat and playing alone upfront is not helping,” he told FourFourTwo exclusively. “I know where people are coming from when they say he’s a static frontman.

“But if that’s how you play, that’s how you play. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is that type of player, and Balotelli is too. The problem is Balotelli isn’t scoring as many goals.

“I think he wants to become a success. It’s just not happening for him. Fans need to stick with him. He needs a strike partner, and when [Daniel] Sturridge returns it’ll be better.”

Saying that, McAteer also believes Balotelli needs to conduct himself in a more responsible manner, after his shirt-swapping incident at half time between Liverpool and Real Madrid drew the ire of both the crowd and his manager Brendan Rodgers.

“He needs to pick himself up, he is very low at the moment. He is under pressure, no doubt, because of the expectations that accompanied his move,” McAteer considered.

“But he needs to help himself out too. He shouldn’t go around tumbling at the slightest touch. Meanwhile, he can swap shirts if he likes, but don’t do it in the public eye.

“At this point, perhaps he is lacking a bit of common sense as well. I’m hopeful his [League Cup] goal against Swansea can kickstart his Anfield career, though.”

The forward had started the Liverpool fightback against the Swans after he came off the bench and scored from Fabio Borini’s cross.

Jason McAteer will join Liverpool legends Robbie Fowler and Dieter Hamann for three special nights in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth in January 2015 to tell fans what it really was like playing at Anfield.

Find out how to be a part of it here.