Well, we wanted another striker, and looks like we've got one. Though perhaps not one we were expecting. Mario Balotelli is on his way to Liverpool for a £16 million pound transfer from AC Milan; a deal that seemed incredibly unlikely just 48 hours ago. Only a month ago, Brendan Rodgers flatly denied this deal, saying "I can categorically tell you that Mario Balotelli will not be at Liverpool." Admittedly that came in the middle of a quote praising the talents of the man they call super Mario, but it sure seemed pretty emphatic.
So, what's changed? Well, for starters, aside from Divock Origi who is one for the future, the Reds have been unable to bring in any other strikers this offseason. This is despite being linked to almost every name available; from the EPL-proven if unexciting Wilfred Bony to the incredibly exciting if unlikely Marco Reus, all the way out to the frighteningly talented but injured and impossibly expensive (£10+ million for a loan?) Radamel Falcao. And the one striker Liverpool actually brought in for a medical in Loic Remy promptly failed it and was sent back to Harry Redknapp and the Queens Park Rangers.
This then left Liverpool, despite all the summer spending and roster strengthening, one Daniel Sturridge hamstring-pull away from rotating Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini at the head of a high-powered offense that needs to score to make up for a defense that will never be a shutdown unit for as long as Steven Gerrard plays defensive midfield and the fullbacks spend most of their time in the opposing half of the field. Lambert and Borini are excellent squad players but neither should be the top offensive option for a side with ambitions in 4 competitions.
Thus, Liverpool were out looking for a striker with game-changing talent. Mario Balotelli certainly has that, and is only 24 which fits in the FSG purchase model. As does the fact that at £16 million he costs only £2 million more than Sunderland are willing to pay Liverpool for Borini. Yes, he's costing £95,000 a week in wages, but this is all incredibly reasonable considering his remarkable talent; keep in mind he scored 14 goals for AC Milan in 25 games last year in what was considered a down year performance-wise!
It's almost impossible to believe how good this deal is, until you realize that Liverpool just bought Mario-freaking-Balotelli. Insurance-salesmen along the River Mersey aren't going to be thrilled about the increased potential for fireworks burning down houses and cars being crashed into walls. The real risk for Liverpool here, though, is that with Balotelli the tale so-far has been one of unfulfilled potential. He has played for some talented managers as well, from Roberto Mancini to Jose Mourinho, and none of them have been able to turn Balotelli into the star his talent screams he should be. It's concerning to think that if Studge does go down with an injury, the Liverpool season will depend heavily on Balotelli's ability to lead the line. He needs to do more than score - he needs to lead the line, play aggressive press when the other team has the ball and he needs to run ceaselessly.
The upside here is truly incredible though. If Brendan Rodgers can fit Mario Balotelli into the lineup, the team and the You'll Never Walk Alone ethos, then Liverpool have just acquired a player who's worth well over twice what Liverpool paid for him. That's just good business.
What I wouldn't give to see Super-Mario announce himself as a Liverpool player by scoring a late winner against City on Monday.