• Premier League

Balotelli: I've never been an out-and-out striker

ESPN staff
October 16, 2014
Mario Balotelli has been asked to lead the line for Liverpool alone in Daniel Sturridge's absence © Getty Images

Mario Balotelli admits he would prefer to play in a different system to the one employed by Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers, but is working hard to adjust to his role as a lone striker.

The former Manchester City striker has scored just one goal in eight games since joining from AC Milan in the summer and was left out of Italy's squad for the recent Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta.

Liverpool lie ninth in the Premier League table after seven games, but Balotelli believes the side can finish in the top four and should still be considered title contenders.

"I want to work on us winning the league, not coming in the first four places," Balotelli told Sport magazine.

"Chelsea and Man City are the teams we need to aim for. We have to give our best, and whatever happens will happen, but I hope we can come very close to the Premier League title."

With Daniel Sturridge sidelined by injury, the onus has fallen on Balotelli to lead the line alone, something which does not come naturally to the 24-year-old, who is yet to score for Liverpool in the Premier League.

"Right now my first league goal is my first and only objective," Balotelli admitted. "I need to get in the box more.

"I don't do it enough, but it is something I am working to try to do more. I have never been a real, out-and-out striker - I have always been someone who goes around the pitch, you know?

"If it was my choice, I would always go with two strikers. It's the way I like to play, but Brendan [Rodgers] asked me to play as the first striker. I understand that when the ball comes from wide on the left or right, I need to be in the box otherwise there might be no-one there at all."

Balotelli admitted to knowing little about Liverpool despite his previous spell in England, but has been impressed by the club's English core - both the younger players like Sturridge, Adam Lallana and Jordan Henderson, as well as club captain Steven Gerrard, who the 24-year-old likened to Italy team-mate Andrea Pirlo.

"Pirlo is amazing - the incredible thing is that he is still getting better now," Balotelli said. "It's an easy thing to say that we just want to keep improving as footballers, but it is not an easy thing to do.

"Gerrard too, he is an amazing player. I had really not seen much of him before this season, apart from for England, but wow. I think of him as being at the same level as Pirlo. Vision, technique, but he is powerful as well.

"Stevie can do anything. It's going to be very difficult for the team to find another player like him in the future."

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