Those at Anfield maybe somewhat reticent to heed the advice from someone with Manchester United connections, but it’s hard not to think Hull City boss Steve Bruce has latched onto a significant point regarding the Italian.
As opposed to railing against Eric Cantona’s many personality shortcomings, Bruce explained that his former boss at Old Trafford, Alex Ferguson, embraced the Frenchman’s eccentricities and saw the benefit on the pitch.
Even when the erratic behaviour of his enfant terrible pushed the limits of what was acceptable. Maybe the same applies with Balotelli.
“Eric once turned up in flip flops and baggy jeans at a civic reception, then there’s only him can get away with it, let me tell you,” Bruce recalled.
“I remember as captain I questioned Fergie about it, and he said, ‘tell the rest of the team if they all play like him, then they can all wear raggy jeans and flip flops!’.
“When you take a maverick on, you have to be sure you are taking them for the right reasons.
“You have to find a way of getting the best out of them without changing them.
“Eric was a great one who came into a team that were ready to accept him for his maverick ways. I think he came into the team at United and we accepted him.
“Balotelli has been unfairly criticised – in my opinion – because he has got this look he doesn’t care. That’s always part of his make-up, it’s easy to pick on because of his body language.”
Rodgers publicly reminded Balotelli of what is expected of him as a Liverpool player, and privately has expressed reservations about whether the £16m signing from AC Milan can ever fulfil his potential.
However, he insisted Balotelli has definitely received enough love at Anfield.
“Oh, he is getting everything. He is getting the support, everything,” Rodgers said.
“That’s what happens when you come to this club. You don’t have any excuses. The people here, the supporters, the players, the staff. They will back every new player. ”
Undoubtedly there were indications against Hull at Anfield on Saturday that the 24-year-old has taken on board Rodgers’ warnings.
It remains to be seen how long Balotelli will be handed the No. 45 shirt, rather than his P45.
Although Rodgers is adamant the 24-year-old has the personality traits to improve and develop his game to Liverpool’s style of play.
“I think you are never too old to learn,” Rodgers added. “The key is if you want to learn. That is the key question. And I think Mario does.”
Hull have a maverick of their own, albeit a less high profile one, to get the best out of in Hatem Ben Arfa, who was joined the Tigers on loan after being frozen out at Newcastle United.
The signs from the French winger at Anfield are that Bruce has got a handle on what it is that makes Ben Arfa tick.
Bruce added: “I thought long and hard about Ben Arfa. With his ability, why should I be able to loan him to come and play for Hull? Obviously it means he’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
“But the past six or seven weeks, he’s been terrific. But you accept he’s not going to be...he’s going to be a bit different to other people.”
Liverpool were the better team in largely uninspiring first half against Hull. Defender Dejan Lovren saw his header cleared off the line while Balotelli’s angled shot was well saved by Hull goalkeeper Eldin Jakupovic, who despite being third choice in the absence of the injured Allan McGregor and Steve Harper, proved a more than capable stand-in.
Liverpool introduced Philippe Coutinho and Rickie Lambert just after the hour mark and they brought greater energy to their play, which forced Hull’s backs to the wall.
Predictably, the opportunity to have the final word was Balotelli’s, but the inspired Jakupovic denied him his first Premier League goal for his new club with a fine save from close range at the end of injury-time.
LIVERPOOL (4-3-3): Mignolet 6; Moreno 7, Lovren 6, Skrtel 6, Manquillo 7; Gerrard 6, Allen 5 (Coutinho 61; 7), Can 7 (Henderson 75; 6); Sterling 6, Lallana 6 (Lambert 61; 7), Balotelli 6.
HULL CITY (5-4-1): Jakupovic 8; Brady 7, Chester 7 Bruce 7, Davies 7, Elmohamady 6; Huddlestone 7; Livermore 7, Ben Arfa 6 (Aluko 71; 7), Diame 6 (Meyler 87; 6); Hernandez 5 (Ramirez 71; 6).
Referee: Nigel Swarbrick (Lancashire).