Brendan Rodgers revealed Mario Balotelli has already shown signs of a new-found maturity as the eccentric Italian made his Liverpool debut in a 3-0 win at Tottenham on Sunday.
Balotelli played for 61 minutes of the Reds’ romp at White Hart Lane following his £16 million ($26 million) move from AC Milan on Monday and delivered a whole-hearted performance with glimpses of his vast talent.
The 24-year-old striker has a well-earned reputation as one of the sport’s most combustible characters and he has frustrated many managers with his lacklustre attitude throughout a controversy-marred career, but Rodgers took heart from the way he accepted the responsibility of helping out defensively against Tottenham.
Rodgers admitted Balotelli had been shocked earlier in the week when he asked the former Manchester City star to mark opposing players at corners, yet he fulfilled the task with gusto.
“He’s at an age when he has to show responsiblity. I’m giving him that,” Rodgers said.
“For the first time in his life he marked at a corner. He’s an international with a Premier League title and three Italian league titles, but when we were doing the defensive corner routines in training I told him he had to mark and he said he didn’t mark at corners.
“I said you do now. And today he went in there and won a header.”
Although Balotelli missed several chances to cap his debut with a goal, the Italian linked up well with team-mates Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling at times.
And Rodgers is confident he will prove a major asset if he can be kept out of trouble.
“He’s a good guy and if you control the background noise, take away some of the situations he has found himself in, you can see he is going to be a real handful for defenders,” Rodgers added.
“You’ve seen his appetite today, his work, pressure, strength and quality. He has a wonderful touch for a big guy. He was excellent.”