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Still always him

Alex Livesey

So, Mario Balotelli's absence from the Premier League appears to have lasted barely 18 months. When City cut him loose back at the tail end of the January transfer window back in 2013 who really thought he would one day return to these shores, having packed up and headed to his beloved Milan?

But he were are. Milan themselves have now decided to part ways with Balotelli, in the process receiving a couple of million or so more than they paid for City. For Liverpool, an outlay of £16million probably feels like a risk worth taking. For Milan, it is a cut price sale of one of their lone assets of value amidst a sad downward slide for one of European footballs grandest clubs.

What are Liverpool getting themselves then? Having rid themselves of one headline grabbing striker they have landed themselves another, although that's where the comparisons ends. For all Balotelli's faults (perceived, fantasised and real) there is little malice, transgressions of immaturity and indolence more than anything.

He certainly isn't a like for like for Luis Suarez. For this reason it will be interesting to see where he fits in. How will Liverpool fans view him after the initial euphoria has died down, having been used to the frantic and chaotic style of Suarez to see Balotelli with his more, how shall we say, laid back approach? He will add goals but not at the volume Suarez did and will he take away from the play of others? Raheem Sterling, Daniel Sturridge et al will all be impacted by his arrival.

As for his temperament, perhaps we will discuss his need to mature ad infinitum and there may one day be an acceptance that this is just how Balotelli is. You feel there is also surely more than a hint of ego on Rodgers' part in taking on a player of such reputation. He may have driven Mourinho and Mancini to despair but I can be the one to solve him.

The immediate City fan reaction has been interesting. If the news has been met with cautious optimism from Liverpool fans, it has been met with stark indifference form City fans. The feeling maybe a slightly sad one in that the move makes him no longer 'our Mario' which was something always worn as such a badge of honour. But ask yourself the question: 'How much has Balotelli been missed?' The answer, bluntly, is not at all.

Partly this is down to the fact that this is a City side studded with genuine world class players but also because his contribution to the side, for all his undoubted and obvious ability, was so minimal, which is a huge shame as he possesses perhaps as finer natural talent as we have witnessed. It is talent thought that has never been shown apart from fleeting glimpses that promised so much more.

It is fair to say his impact at City was minimal. A trawl through the Bitter and Blue archives brings us to this post on his (and other striker's) numbers during his time at the club. They don't make for good reading. Neither does this piece summing up his time in a City shirt. The overriding feeling was that for all the off-field headlines that distracted, it was the on-field performances (or lack of) that was Balotelli's undoing.

Fast forward a year or 18 months from now and the likely outcome is that Liverpool will be as equally enamoured and exasperated as City were. There will be moments of genius and moments of madness (for it is that as much as Balotelli is a lightning rod for controversy he also needs the oxygen of publicity). Life won't be dull, for that is the way of Mario Balotelli. To expect anything different is to ultimately end up in disappointment.