Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has insisted that Mario Balotelli won’t be leaving Anfield in the January transfer window, yet the club continues to be linked with moves to reinforce their strike force in the January transfer window.
The 24-year-old has scored just two goals, none in the Premier League, since joining from AC Milan for £16 million in the summer and has at times been the subject of public criticism from Rodgers, fuelling speculation that he could be set for a quick exit. But, speaking ahead of Liverpool’s trip to Aston Villa on Saturday, Rodgers explained that he was standing behind the Italy international.
“Mario’s a good guy,” he said. “He hasn’t scored the goals that he would have wanted or that we would have wanted, but we’re determined to help him find the solution here. So he certainly won’t be going anywhere in January.”
Most recently, Balotelli has been linked with a move to Italian champions Juventus this month. However, their manager, Massimiliano Allegri, who coached Balotelli at the start of his spell at Milan, has since dismissed that possibility.
Following the exit of Luis Suarez and a series of injuries that have ruled Daniel Sturridge out since August, Liverpool have struggled for firepower this season. Of late, Raheem Sterling has impressed in a central striker role and Sturridge is now stepping up his recovery, but Rodgers has confirmed that the club are still exploring the possibility of bringing forward Divock Origi’s arrival from Lille. The young Belgian striker was signed last summer but loaned back to the Ligue 1 club for this season.
“He's a player that will definitely be here next summer,” Rodgers said. “Whether he'll be here or not in January is something that there has been discussion about. But there is nothing to report on it. The agreement with Lille was for him to stay there. So we'll see how that works. But, if not, we've got players here that are developing and working well, and we'll go with what we've got.”
Despite reports that Liverpool are willing to pay a considerable fee to add Origi to their squad in January, the 19-year-old has scored just three goals in 17 Ligue 1 appearances this season. West Brom’s Saido Berahino has been considerably more prolific, scoring 14 goals to date to fuel speculation that he is on Liverpool’s wish list in the January transfer window. But, according to BBC Sport reporter Ben Smith, the 21-year-old doesn’t expect to be leaving this month.
Meanwhile, reports have also linked Liverpool with a transfer for Napoli front man Gonzalo Higuain. The Argentinian’s brother and agent, Nicolas, though, has dismissed the speculation.
“First of all, I have not spoken to any club because they have not contacted me and secondly, it would be disrespectful to Napoli,” he said, according to the Daily Mail. “[Napoli president Aurelio] De Laurentiis is a great person, a man of honor and I couldn't behave incorrectly.
“We're not thinking about leaving Napoli. I'm confident that the team can finish third [in Serie A to qualify for the Champions League], then we'll see about Gonzalo's future. I haven't spoken with any team. Gonzalo is calm, he has a contract with Napoli and he's not planning to leave because he's happy.”
Perhaps with that in mind, the Daily Star has suggested that Liverpool will battle Chelsea for the £32 million signing of another Argentinian striker, Inter Milan’s Mauro Icardi. The 21-year-old, long been seen as one of the game’s rising stars, has found his feet this season after a mixed start to his Inter career following a move from Sampdoria, scoring 10 goals in 16 Serie A appearances. He was left out of the starting lineup, though, in one of Roberto Mancini’s first games in charge and it has been suggested that Inter could be willing to cash in in order to give Mancini funds to continue to overhaul his squad. The reported size of the fee, however, could rule Liverpool out of the running.