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Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard has backed summer signing Mario Balotelli to be a success at the club despite many critics reserving their judgement on the 24-year-old. The former Manchester City and AC Milan forward recently returned to the Premier League after 18 months in the Italian Serie A. He has been signed for a transfer fee of £ 16 million, which manager Brendan Rodgers has labelled it as a major gamble given the recent history of the player. Balotelli is known for causing a lot of headlines on and off the field with his antics, but Gerrard believes that the player has matured a lot in recent years.
Balotelli is yet to score for Liverpool in the two matches he has played. In the absence of Daniel Sturridge, the 24-year-old is expected to continue as the club’s first choice striker in the Champions League match against Ludogorets. Balotelli is one of the experienced players at international and European level. He is the first choice striker for the Italian national team before being left out of the team by new manager Antonio Conte due to poor form. Gerrard says that he is not concerned about the critics when it comes to Balotelli’s potential for success at Liverpool.
After having seen the player from a close, the Liverpool captain says that Balotelli has all the ingredients to be a success. “If people want to write stories about him and say that he is crazy or he is a nutter, let them. If we get the best out of him, we have got him. If people want to write stories about him and say that he is crazy or he is a nutter, let them, but he is one of us now. We have welcomed him into this club with open arms and we want to help him succeed. Everyone is hoping he is going to be a hit,” said Gerrard.
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Melbourne Victory defender Adrian Leijer has claimed that the club are hoping to win the FFA Cup, which is being inaugurated this season. It is a trophy that will be similar to the English FA Cup. Melbourne Victory have been one of the top teams in the Australian A League. They have won the A-League twice in their history. After the introduction of this new cup competition, there is hope that they will be able to increase the trophy cabinet in the coming seasons. Leijer says that the club are in fact targeting the title in this first campaign.
Kevin Muscat has signed some important players for the club this season. This has contributed to their good run of form in the pre-season friendly matches. Ahead of the start of the new season in the second week of October, preparations are going on in good manner. After the final friendly match against Richmond, Muscat’s team will be taking on Bayswater City in the first round of the FFA Cup. This will be followed by the start of the Australian A-League with a home match against Western Sydney Wanderers.
“That’s an important game for us, we’re really looking forward to it. Pre-season traditionally in the A-League has been very long and pretty strenuous. Now we’ve got something to break it up. It’s an important competition for us. We’ve got high hopes. To be the first winners of the FFA Cup would be pretty special and that’s definitely our target. The goalkeeper that made the final save, Rani (Dowisha), he used to train with us. To see him pull that off was pretty special for us,” said the defender about the pre-season, FFA Cup, and the signings.
Melbourne Victory’s activity in the transfer market is not over yet and there could be at least two more signings.
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Mario Balotelli’s agent Mino Raiola has rejected suggestions that he has held talks with Arsenal over a potential transfer of his client in the summer. Balotelli has been heavily linked with Arsenal in the last few weeks. This comes as a major surprise especially given that he moved to AC Milan only in 2012. He has been playing for the Italian outfit in excellent fashion even though his form has not helped them achieve good results. Milan will be without any form of European football for the upcoming season.
This will put a huge strain on the financial resources of the club in order to keep the current stars. As a result, there have been rumours that they would be prepared to sell Balotelli apart from allowing Kaka to leave the club on a free transfer. Both these moves will allow the club to significantly reduce the wage bill, as they have been cutting down on costs for the last few years. Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has been unwilling to put more money into the club. Balotelli recently had a terrible World Cup, which may prevent his chances of moving to another club.
However, there have been transfer rumours stating that Raiola met with Arsene Wenger in Brazil.
“I have not been in Brazil during the World Cup and I have not met with manager Arsene Wenger. It’s important for Balotelli to be valued by the club at which he plays. Only Milan can sell him and if they do not want him, they need to call me. I do not think there is a stronger striker in Italy than Balotelli,” said Balotelli’s agent. Despite the positive talk, the striker has been blamed for Italy’s early exit from the World Cup 2014. The team were knocked out at the group stages.
Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere has stated that Mario Balotelli will be a man to watch when England come up against Italy in the opening group match. Balotelli is one of the leading strikers in the world, but he also has had an up-and-down time in England. He has been playing in Italy for the last two seasons after his spell at Manchester City came to an end. He is regarded as one of the enigmas of football. England manager Roy Hodgson has been pointing out to the threat from Andrea Pirlo from the centre of the park. Meanwhile, Wilshere says that the team should also be aware of Balotelli.
England start the campaign with this tough match followed by the match against Costa Rica. They end the group stages with match against Luis Suarez and Uruguay. Because of the tough group matches, it is considered that England will face a huge fight if they failed to get three points against Italy. Wilshere says that the presence of players like Joe Hart, who have played alongside Balotelli, will help the England team learn about the negative aspects of the 23-year-old. Wilshere could soon be playing along with Balotelli after it has emerged that Arsenal are looking to sign the Italian international.
“First and foremost, we have to worry about him as a player. He is a great player. We have seen that in the past. But we have got players who have played with him like Joe Hart, and we have defenders who have played against him in the Premier League. I don’t think that will be a problem,” said Wilshere. Heat is expected to be a major problem for the British. They will be playing their games in places like Manaus with temperatures expected to get about the 30°C mark.
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