There will be no route back to Italy for Mario Balotelli this January, according to Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers.
Reports in the striker’s homeland have suggested that former club Inter Milan, where Balotelli rose to prominence, may be looking at a loan move for him in the new year in light of his poor start to life at Anfield.
But Rodgers insists he has no plans to further weaken a forward line which is already lacking the injured Daniel Sturridge. Rodgers said: “It’s not some thing that I have even thought about to be honest. We’ve had a lot of games this season in a lot of competitions. At this moment in time the key for me is trying to keep the squad together.”
While Balotelli continues to struggle to find his feet at Anfield since his £16m move from AC Milan in the summer, Rodgers has been forced to juggle his forwards to find a combination which goes some way to fill the void left by the absence of Sturridge and the departed Luis Suarez.
Raheem Sterling is currently the latest player leading the line and he performed admirably in that role again against Burnley on Boxing Day. His decisive strike on the hour took him to three goals in his last three matches, and Rodgers believes that he has a lot to offer in a position which he is quickly adapting to.
“I think Raheem and anyone with that type of pace will always stretch teams and will always make defenders think,” he said. “He’s a different type and not your natural number nine. For me it’s more about the position than the player. For the team to function well, that pace in the team is very important for us.”
Sterling is likely to be supported by both Phillipe Coutinho and Adam Lalanna when Swansea visit Anfield on Monday. Rodgers was full of praise for the duo and the opportunities they have created for their team-mate -it was an inventive flick from the Brazilian which created the goal at Burnley.
“I think that Adam and Philippe are playing in a role that suits them perfectly really. The key is obviously the work rate as well. They press the ball well, they work very, very hard.”
And Emre Can was another who received praise from Rodgers. “He played centre half in one of the games I took in last year to go and see him. He played at centre half in a 4-2-3-1. He’s got a big future hear at Anfield it’s just been curtailed a little since the summer when he was trying to gain his fitness,” he said.
“He had an ankle issue that made him miss training and he was in and out. He’s got great athleticism and you saw in his presence on the pitch yesterday (against Burnley) that he’s an outstanding footballer.
“He’s a very young player just acclimatising to the game over here. His favourite position is as a more defensive player even though I’ve played him in a more attack role because I’d like him to do more of that.
“But he’s a player that if you asked him his profile it would be to sit and play in that defensive role where he can play and dictate the game and be physical in the duel.
“Him coming on against Burnley gave us that assurance in possession and also that physicality when we didn’t have the ball. He’s someone I know can play in a number of positions and someone I know his influence will become greater as the season goes on.”