Mario Balotelli believes Brendan Rodgers is the right manager to improve him as a player, offering words of praise for the Northern Irishman in an interview with Sport Magazine.
Balotelli admits he is desperate to score his first Premier League goal for Liverpool, claiming the role playing as a lone striker has not suited him.
The 24-year-old is yet to open his account in the Premier League for the Reds, and has often featured as the one forward in a 4-2-3-1 formation with Daniel Sturridge out injured.
The England international is set to return to the first team squad for Sunday’s trip to Queens Park Rangers, and Balotelli hopes that will help him towards firing his first league goal in a red shirt.
“I know I have one goal in the Champions League, but in the Premier League I have to start with one,” Balotelli said.
“After that, I might set myself a target, but I swear – right now my first league goal is my first and only objective.? ?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 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.
“I can see already that the Liverpool fans really like me, although I know that maybe they are a little upset because I don’t score. I see they appreciate that I am working hard, though, which is nice for me.”
And the former Manchester City man thinks Rodgers is the man to help him improve his goal scoring ratio, praising the Liverpool bosses man-management of players.
Asked about playing under his new boss, Balotelli said: “He is very good, a strong character, and I think that comes out in the way the team plays.
“I think he can help me improve as a player. He is very open, everybody can talk to him, but first he looks at the person, and second he looks at the footballer. With Brendan, you need to be a good person – you don’t have to be, how do you say it, a d***head.
Balotelli admits he has been taken aback by the quality at the club since his £16million arrival from AC Milan in August, reserving special praise for captain Steven Gerrard.
“I didn’t really know much about the club before coming here, but I’ve been really surprised. I knew they were a very good team, but I didn’t know they were as good as they are,” said Balotelli.
“Of course we need to improve many things because we have started off not very good, but I think the players here are amazing. It’s good to see young English players here too: Sterling, Henderson, Lallana. I think the more players you have like this, the better.
“Maybe over time you have got used to not seeing so many good young English players like that, but now we are seeing some – it’s good that they are in my team.
“Gerrard 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.”
Balotelli has lost his place in the Italy squad following his move to Anfield, and accepts it is the right decision at present given his lack of goals.
However the 24-year-old had strong words for former Italy boss Cesare Prandelli, following his criticism of Balotelli following Italy’s early exit from the summer’s World Cup.
“I am a face-to-face person,” he continued. “I understand why I am not in the squad. I haven’t been scoring, but other players like [Graziano] Pellèand the other strikers have been. So they deserve to be there, but I love Italy and nobody can ever say anything about my national team.
“I will always love it, but I have to be honest and say I was disappointed at what people were saying and how they were blaming me after the World Cup.
“I think I had two, maybe three chances in all the tournament. Everyone knows I scored against England, but I couldn’t do much else.
“Even Cesare Prandelli has said bad stuff about me. Should he be going and talking to the newspapers about me straight after a game? I did not expect that and I did not reply, because there is no point.
“I think real men, if they have something to say, then they come to you and say it to your face. I am a face-to-face person, a straight person.”