Will The Real Balotelli Stand Up?

One goal in 10 matches for new club Liverpool, and dumped by the Italian national team. Perhaps the man known as "Super" Mario Balotelli isn't feeling quite so super at present. Offloaded by Italian giants AC Milan prior to the start of the season, the 24-year-old is already onto the fourth high-profile club of his fledgling career. And until the striker, painted as a maverick and a trouble maker in the press, proves he can "carry" a club, his enormous potential may go unfulfilled, according to Milan director Umberto Gandini. "Probably Mario has not made the transition yet from being just a fantastic athlete to a great player," Gandini told CNN of one of the most talked about players in world football. "The expectation was probably bigger (at AC Milan), and I think also his expectations, and he has not reached the status yet where he can carry the club. Balotelli has struggled to adapt to life back in the English Premier League, scoring just one goal in eight matches for Liverpool since his $25 million move in August. Even his new manager Brendan Rodgers admitted signing the former Inter Milan forward was a "calculated risk" given his checkered past, saying the player himself knows this is probably his last chance. Not helping him is the shadow of the man he replaced on Merseyside–Luis Suarez, now at Spanish club Barcelona. The Uruguayan achieved cult status at the club, scoring 82 goals in 133 appearances, and 31 times last season as the Reds came agonizingly close to a first Premier League title since 1990. And while there are similarities in the way the pair have courted controversy in the past, Balotelli is yet to offer any hint of the potency that punctuated Suarez's stay at the club. He is yet to get off the mark in the Premier League and whether he will play alongside Daniel Sturridge on Sunday against QPR, the England striker having returned to fitness, remains to be seen. Tales of Balotelli's private life dominated his last stint in England and Milan president Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister, this week said the striker was signed against his advice, calling him a "bad apple." But that is at odds with Gandini's assessment -- that Balotelli is far more professional than he is portrayed -- though he does acknowledge the player is energised by conflict. "He is much, much better than he is portrayed and his lifestyle was much better than portrayed in England," Gandini added. "He is a fantastic kid, he is humble, and recognizes a lot of values that football has given to him, and life in general. "I think he loves the fight. He loves to fight with something or somebody -- on the pitch, in life. He's always trying to take the stance. One Italian newspaper claimed Balotelli made 788 headlines in his 568 days in Milan while another said the striker possessed "the strange talent of making everyone happy when he arrives and even happier when he leaves." But Gandini insisted he left Milan on good terms, even though it was clear he had become surplus to requirements at the Rossoneri. "We honestly thought the best for him was to come to Milan and work in an environment in which he was supported very strongly," he explained. "He likes Milan, he loves the team, but then we got to a point when we were looking for a different kind of player and he was looking for a different challenge. Top players wants to play in the Premier League. He had his first taste with City, now he is more mature and has the opportunity with Liverpool, an historic club. Balotelli joined Liverpool during the summer transfer window, but the Merseyside club has madean uncertain start to the domestic season. His first goal for Liverpool in their 2-1 Champions League win against Ludogorets. Balotelli, 24, scored 30 goals in 54 games for Milan and was an integral part of the Italy side which reached the final of the European Championships in 2012. Balotelli, who was part of the Italy side which failed to get out of the group stage at the 2014 World Cup, endured a mixed time in the English Premier League with City. While he scored 30 goals in 80 appearances, a number of disciplinary issues affected his game. Balotelli scored the winning goal when Italy defeated England 2-1 at the World Cup in Brazil. Balotelli is well known to English fans, having spent three incident-packed seasons with Manchester City. A halftime swap of shirts with a Real Madrid player in their Champions League last week, again provided the first flashpoint in Balotelli's career at Liverpool. In truth, it should be the least of the team's worries. Spoilt by a weekly glut of goals from Luis Suarez last season, Liverpool fans are feeling short-changed by the Uruguayan's replacement. The bare statistics show Balotelli has one goal in 10 games, but it is his all-round contribution that has been more disappointing. The 3-0 loss to Madrid in the Champions League wasn't simply a chastening night for Liverpool on the biggest stage in European football. It was the low point in Balotelli's two months at the club. Against Hull City at Anfield last week, the Italian again failed to register his first Premiership goal since his return, though he produced a much-improved effort and had one of Liverpool's best chances in the first half, forcing a fine save from Eldin Jakupovic, and was again thwarted by the Hull goalkeeper with almost the last kick of the game. Rodgers has vowed to stick with the striker, despite his inability to shine as well as Suarez did for the team last season. "Sometimes with players if it's not going so well they have a day where they don't train or don't work, but he puts himself out to train every single day. He is out there wanting to be better, wanting to improve. "Goalscorers will tell you they get their energy from the ball hitting the back of the net and it is just not happening for him in terms of that, but all I will ask is they do their best”Rogers said. Balotelli is one of the players that catch the headlines of a very celebrity-obsessed football world. From wacky hairstyles right through to cars and domestic ‘incidents,’ the striker is the dream of the tabloid press. In a period when his football is not doing the talking, the media and certain parts of the footballing public are desperately wishing for Balotelli to emotionally collapse up in front of the baying football world. Any examination on why Liverpool’s current season is hesitatingly stuttering from week to week, without any sense of the assuredness of last year is just forgotten, or can wait for another day. Everyone knows Balotelli’s worth but Liverpool are yet to feel his impact, the ‘real’ Balotelli must show up and on time too before all those who truly support him and want to see him shine, have their patience running thin.