Wed, Aug 27, 2014 - Page 19 News List

Liverpool new boy Balotelli thrilled to be back in England

AFP, MANCHESTER, England

Italy forward Mario Balotelli celebrates after scoring goal in their Euro 2012 semi-final against Germany in Warsaw on June 28, 2012.

Photo: AFP

Mario Balotelli said he was glad to be back in the Premier League after the controversial Italy striker completed his £16 million (US$26.5 million) move to Liverpool on Monday.

Balotelli left England in January last year when Manchester City sold him to AC Milan, but the 24-year-old had a difficult time in Italy, where he was subjected to racial abuse by opposing fans.

After completing his switch to Anfield on a three-year contract worth a reported £90,000 a week and which includes an option for a further year, Balotelli said he had been wrong to ever leave England.

“I’m happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake. I wanted to go to Italy, but I realized it was a mistake,” the Italian told the Liverpool Web site. “English football is generally better — English football is beautiful.”

Liverpool did not complete the transfer in time for Balotelli to play in their 3-1 loss to City on Monday, but he attended the match and sat in the directors’ box wearing a dark top and a beanie.

He had earlier completed a one-on-one training session with Liverpool’s head of conditioning and fitness, Ryland Morgans, at the club’s Melwood base.

Balotelli earned a reputation as a troublemaker during his three-year stint at City, where his antics included setting fireworks off in his house and brawling with then-coach Roberto Mancini.

Speaking before his side’s defeat at the Etihad Stadium, Reds manager Brendan Rodgers admitted that Balotelli’s signing represented something of a gamble.

“He needs to settle down and show maturity, but I have worked with loads of players like that,” the Northern Irishman told Sky Sports of his new signing.

“He has huge potential, but he needs to come here and be consistent and if he can do that then we have one hell of a player,” Rodgers said. “We have strong family values and behavior is very important here [at Anfield]. We believe we can improve his game and consistency in his game.”

Asked what he expected from Balotelli, Rodgers joked: “Trouble,” but has told the club Web site: “This transfer represents outstanding value for the club and I think we have done a really smart piece of business here.”

The Italian received a hostile reception from Anfield while with City, but was given a warm welcome by the fans who gathered outside the club’s training ground to catch a glimpse of the striker.

“I didn’t expect it because whenever I played against Liverpool, the fans weren’t nice with me, but that’s normal — it’s football,” Balotelli said. “Now that I play for Liverpool, I can see the expectation in people. They’re very happy and that makes me very happy at the same time.”

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