Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers has warned that no incoming player will be allowed to threaten the “fantastic environment” at the club as Mario Balotelli’s proposed transfer to the Merseyside outfit apparently edges ever closer.
With the Reds having reportedly agreed a £16m fee with AC Milan for Balotelli, the mercurial Italy striker was understood to be flying to England on Friday afternoon ahead of a medical.
A key aspect of discussions between Liverpool and Balotelli’s agent – said to have taken place on Thursday evening, continued on Friday and progressed well - is believed to be the club’s desire to obtain assurances about the 24-year-old’s behaviour.
And while Rodgers, who looks set for a remarkable about-turn after insisting around three weeks ago that he “categorically” would not be signing Balotelli, was unwilling to refer to the player by name on Friday afternoon, he did emphasise there is an “extensive code of conduct” at Anfield to be adhered to.
Initially asked about Balotelli at his press conference to preview Monday’s Barclays Premier League clash with Manchester City, Rodgers said with a smile: “I can categorically tell you that I can’t speak about it until the player is signed.
“If we sign anyone, I will speak at length about them, but until then I can’t say anything.”
Rodgers did, though, then go on to speak about the standards of behaviour expected at Liverpool and his determination to protect them, indicating that Balotelli would be subject to the same rules as everyone else at the club.
He said: “I think every club will have a code of conduct for the people and professionals who work (for them).
“We have quite an extensive code of conduct for players and staff – there is no specific one for any one individual.
“We have a fantastic environment here and a great culture, and I think it is something that was very important for us to create and build here.
“There will be nothing that will ever shake that or provoke it in any way. It is something I always protect at the club.”
Rodgers said he has "complete confidence'' that any player he signs for Liverpool will not be a disruptive influence. He can see why some might perceive signing Balotelli as a risk, but one worth taking.
“With every player we assess and look at, of course, character is very important and no player would come here if I felt it couldn’t work,” Rodgers said.
“If I feel someone cares enough, I will give them everything, and thankfully we have a culture here that creates talents and gives them the opportunity to blossom.
“As long as they show they care and want to learn and develop, we can give them the opportunity.”
He added: “Players and people come in all different shapes and sizes and have different traits. You can’t throw a blanket over everyone.
“This isn’t like many clubs. Liverpool is a club that is a real strong family football club, with values and ethics that run over many years.
“I, as the manager, will fight to protect that always, so no matter what player or professional at the club, they will abide by that.
“But we understand that sometimes you have to take a risk with people. And a lot of the time, if you take that risk you can get a reward for it.”
Balotelli is a proven performer, but the baggage that comes with him is considerable.
His spell with Manchester City from summer 2010 to January 2013 was a whirlwind one, with occasional sparkling performances interspersed with volatility on the field and erratic behaviour off it.
He will not be able to feature against his old club in Monday’s contest at the Etihad Stadium as his transfer would have needed to have been completed by midday on Friday for him to be eligible.
Adam Lallana, signed by Liverpool this summer from Southampton, is still awaiting his competitive Reds debut due to a knee injury and although he has reached the latter stages of his rehabilitation, the City game comes too soon for him to be involved.
However, fellow midfielder and new recruit Lazar Markovic is fit enough to be in contention to make his bow, and there could be a first run-out for defender Alberto Moreno too following his switch last week from Sevilla.
Jose Enrique’s condition will be assessed, while Daniel Agger, Jon Flanagan and Oussama Assaidi remain sidelined.