• Premier League

Balotelli has grown up since his City days, says Toure

ESPN staff
September 4, 2014
Mario Balotelli has been praised by Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard since joining Liverpool © Getty Images

Liverpool's new £16 million signing Mario Balotelli is a more intelligent and mature player than he was during his last spell in the Premier League, according to Kolo Toure.

Toure was a team-mate of Balotelli at Manchester City, who played there for two-and-a-half years from summer 2010 and frequently found himself the subject of unwanted attention because of a series of incidents on and off the pitch.

Balotelli's escapades included throwing a dart at a youth-team player and a fire brigade call-out caused when fireworks were let off in his bathroom.

"Some people have got the wrong idea about Mario," Toure Toure told the Liverpool Echo. "At City, he was young. And when you are young, you make some mistakes. Everyone does.

"He had a hard childhood but now he's more mature. He knows what he's doing. He knows he needs to work hard.

"For me he's always been a good boy but now I think he's more mature, more intelligent.

"He loves football and we are really happy to have him. With experience you become better. That's what we'll see from Mario."

Balotelli has already endeared himself with Liverpool fans on social media, posting a series of messages and images - including the Bill Shankly quote below - suggesting his commitment to the club and an excitement to be playing for them.

He also impressed during his debut for the club last Sunday against Tottenham, with Brendan Rodgers and Steven Gerrard both full of praise for the start he has made to his career at Anfield.

Manager Rodgers claims to have created the right environment for players such as Balotelli to flourish in and Toure certainly appears to be one of squad members who has bought into his approach.

The centre-back turned down the chance to move to Turkish club Trabzonspor last month, believing that he still has plenty to offer at Anfield. Even after being an unused substitute in all three of Liverpool's Premier League games this season, Toure insists he made the right decision.

"There are so many games this season with the four competitions that the manager needs depth. I am sure everyone will get chances at some point.

"The most important thing for me is what's best for the team, it's not about individuals. I'm part of a great project here and I will do my best every time I play."

Like Toure, striker Fabio Borini has rejected the chance to leave Anfield this summer, having decided against moves to Sunderland and QPR after Liverpool agreed deals to sell him to both clubs.

Rodgers though, was keener to sell Borini than Toure, who he feels brings valuable experience to the club even as a squad player, having won Premier League titles with Arsenal in 2004 and Manchester City in 2012.

Toure however, has not started a league game for Liverpool since February and is likely to be used only sparingly this season, even allowing for the club's increased schedule do to their qualification for the Champions League.

Asked why he had turned down a move to Turkey, Toure said: "I have one more year on my contract here and this is a great club. As a player, you want to play for great clubs.

"The time I've spent at Liverpool already has been amazing for me. We had a great season and I've had a great time.

"You always want to be part of a great team and I hope this will be another great season for Liverpool Football club."

Kolo Toure, left, was close to leaving Liverpool last month along with his team-mate Fabio Borini, right © Getty Images
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