Liverpool signed Italy striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan for 16 million pounds ($26.5 million) on Monday, taking a calculated gamble on a headline-grabbing player known as much for his controversies as his goals.
Nineteen months after ending a 2½-year spell with Manchester City to play for his boyhood club, Balotelli will return to the English Premier League as a replacement for Luis Suarez — another of world football's talented but disruptive stars.
"I'm happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake," Balotelli said. "I wanted to go to Italy but I realized it was a mistake."
Balotelli, who has signed what Liverpool said is a "long-term deal," spent his first day with his new team watching the Reds lose 3-1 to City in a Premier League game at Etihad Stadium later Monday. He wasn't registered in time to play.
Liverpool has been looking to strengthen its strikeforce after selling Suarez to Barcelona for $130 million but left it to the last week of the transfer window to secure one of the summer's most high-profile and intriguing signings.
During his time at City, in which he won the league title, Balotelli was sent off four times, threw a dart at a youth-team player and was involved in an incident that saw fireworks explode in his bathroom. Days before news of the fireworks incident emerged, Balotelli had revealed a T-shirt under his City jersey with the question, "Why Always Me?" after scoring in the team's 6-1 win over Manchester United.
Balotelli, with his physique, technical ability and qualities as a finisher, is one of the world's best strikers and, at 24, the best times of his career could still lie ahead of him. At Milan, he scored 26 goals in 43 league matches and he is the Italian national team's top striker, scoring 13 goals in 33 games.
But with trouble always seeming to follow him, some are questioning whether Balotelli is worth the risk for Liverpool, which has fostered a strong team spirit under manager Brendan Rodgers that helped it finish second in the Premier League last season. Jose Mourinho described Balotelli as "unmanageable" during their time together at Inter Milan, which the striker left in 2010 to join City.
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