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On this day 2014: Liverpool sign Mario Balotelli as Luis Suarez replacement

Soccer – Barclays Premier League – Liverpool v Aston Villa – Anfield
(Image credit: Peter Byrne)

Liverpool made one of the shock signings of the summer when they signed the mercurial Mario Balotelli on this day six years ago.

The Reds had fallen narrowly short of ending a 24-year wait for a league title the previous season and their talisman Luis Suarez left for Barcelona soon after.

Manager Brendan Rodgers gambled on the enigmatic Balotelli, then still just 24, as his replacement, hoping to coax the best of an undeniably brilliant but often frustrating and wayward talent.

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The Italian had been a cult hero at Manchester City, whom he joined from Inter Milan in 2010. He scored 30 goals for City and played a key role in their FA Cup win of 2011 and Premier League title success the following year.

Fans were thrilled by his play and were endeared to him further by his offbeat persona, with tales of his off-field antics numerous and, in many cases, humorous.

Yet City eventually tired of the controversies, of which driving into a women’s prison, setting fireworks off from his bathroom, throwing darts at youth-team players, car crashes, red cards and clashes with combustible manager Roberto Mancini were just a few.

Balotelli impressed at City but had a colourful off-field life and often clashed with manager Roberto Mancini

Balotelli impressed at City but had a colourful off-field life and often clashed with manager Roberto Mancini (Nick Potts/PA)

He followed his heart to boyhood club AC Milan in January 2013 but, despite a decent goal return for the Rossoneri, did not win over the fans or the hierarchy with his demeanour.

Liverpool felt the £16million they paid for him would prove a snip if Rodgers could get him to replicate even just some of the Suarez magic.

Yet it was not to be. He scored just four goals in 28 appearances and was sent back to Milan, on loan, for the 2015-16 season.

The Italian scored just four times for Liverpool

The Italian scored just four times for Liverpool (Peter Byrne/PA)

There was to be no Anfield return after Jurgen Klopp took over as manager. The German deemed him surplus to requirements and he was allowed to join Nice on a free transfer in the same summer Liverpool signed Sadio Mane.

Balotelli rediscovered his scoring touch with 33 goals in 51 Ligue 1 appearances over two seasons with Nice and briefly returned to the Italy national side after a four-year absence. Yet it was not to last and he moved to Marseille after falling out of favour under manager Patrick Vieira.

After a short spell at the Stade Velodrome he joined hometown Brescia last year but the move, overshadowed by instances of racial abuse, has not worked out. Last season also ended in relegation to Serie B and Balotelli’s future is uncertain.

With the excitement of his early years now a receding memory, Balotelli, now 30, remains a talent unfulfilled.