Balotelli will not disrupt Anfield dressing room, says Rodgers

Julian Guyer
AFPAugust 22, 2014
Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers pictured before the start of the English Premier League match against Southampton at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on August 17, 2014
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Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers pictured before the start of the English Premier League match against Southampton at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, northwest England, on August 17, 2014 (AFP Photo/Paul Ellis)

London (AFP) - Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insisted Friday no player would be allowed to disturb the "fantastic environment" at Anfield as the Reds appeared to close in on signing controversial striker Mario Balotelli.

Reports in several British newspapers said the 24-year-old Italy international would have to agree to Liverpool's code of conduct if his proposed £16 million ($27 million, 20 million euros) transfer from AC Milan is to be completed, with the clubs having already agreed the fee.

Rodgers, speaking at a scheduled press conference ahead of Monday's trip to Manchester City -- the team that just beat Liverpool to the Premier League title last season -- was coy when asked about the supposedly imminent arrival of Balotelli, whom Sky Sports subsequently reported was at the club's training ground.

"I can categorically tell you that I can't speak about it until the player is signed," he said.

Nevertheless, the Northern Irishman did make clear the standards of behaviour he expected from all his players -- without exception.

"We have quite an extensive code of conduct for players and staff -- there is no specific one for any one individual," he said.

- Culture -

"We have a fantastic environment here and a great culture, and I think it is something that was very important for us to create and build here.

"There will be nothing that will ever shake that or provoke it in any way. It is something I always protect at the club."

Balotelli's two and a half years with Manchester City prior to returning to Italy were overshadowed by his off-pitch antics, which included car crashes, setting fireworks off in his bathroom and an incident in which he threw a dart at a youth-team player.

He was regularly at loggerheads with then City boss Roberto Mancini and clashed with some team-mates while producing intermittent flashes of his undoubted star quality.

Signing Balotelli would be consistent with Liverpool's aim to land a top quality replacement for Luis Suarez following the Uruguayan's World Cup biting disgrace and subsequent departure for Barcelona.

During Liverpool's tour of the United States earlier this month, Rodgers appeared to close the door on a move for Balotelli by saying: "I can categorically tell you that he will not be coming to Liverpool."

But with the transfer window shutting at the end of the month, it seems Rodgers has changed his mind as a result of both the relative attractiveness of Balotelli's transfer fee and the club's apparent failure sign Monaco's Radamel Falcao as their first-choice replacement for Suarez.

There is a belief Rodgers can do with Balotelli what he managed with the volatile Suarez, who caused the Reds boss several problems in biting Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic after a previous incident also saw him banned for racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra.

Suarez then tried to engineer a move to Arsenal but Rodgers refused to buckle and the striker responded by scoring 31 goals for Liverpool.

Suarez eventually left for Barcelona in a £75 million move following his four-month ban for biting Italy's Giorgio Chiellini during the World Cup in Brazil.

Balotelli scored 16 goals for Milan last season, as well as the winner in Italy's World Cup opener against England in Manaus.

And a return to England could suit him.

As the most prominent black player in Italy, and the first to represent the country at a major tournament, he has had to endure regular racist abuse of a kind which is now rare in English stadiums.

Balotelli won the FA Cup and Premier League in his last spell in England with City before leaving for Milan in January 2013.