Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli was Manager Brendan Rogers highest-profile transfer target over the summer, arriving on August 25 on a £16 million — that’s $25.7 million in U.S. cash — transfer from AC Milan. But the mercurial 24-year-old has proven a bust so far, appearing in four Premier League matches without netting a goal.
The controversial Italian’s single moment of productivity for the Reds came in an September 16 Champions League pairing against lightly-regarded Bulgarian club Ludogorets. Meanwhile, his off-the-pitch antics continue to provide grist for the tabloid mill, with his most recent incident involving fireworks that exploded in the bathroom of his home — an incident that the Liverpool striker admits is true, while claiming that someone else was responsible for putting the match to the fuse.
Given Balotelli’s known off-field preferences, the British press has been reporting a new and novel reason for why Balotelli has been ineffective so far in his eight Liverpool appearances, in all competitions.
The reason: fatigue. But that’s not what’s interesting about it. The interesting part is why, according to the English media, Balotelli has felt tired during matches. He has a habit of having sex just a few hours before kickoff, leaving him spent, the tabloids say.
In a recent interview with Sport Magazine, Balotelli confronted the salacious accusation head on, and laughed it off.
“Someone told me recently that I had apparently said that if I have sex three or four hours before a game, it is working for me on the pitch,” Balotelli explained. “Trust me, if I am having sex four hours before a game I am not able to play. I don’t think anyone could. It makes me laugh, but this is not me.”
Balotelli told the magazine that since his arrival at Liverpool, he has concentrated only on football, and that he now avoids extracurricular difficulties because he has taken a home in a rural area, away from the city’s nightlife, and “I don’t have any problems because I am always home.”
As for Liverpool’s other top, young star, 19-year-old Raheem Sterling, he has apparently been experiencing fatigue issues of his own, but the cause is not as clear. Sterling recently scoffed at rumors that his off-the-pitch energy has resulted in the teenager already fathering eight children.
Actually, Sterling is the happy dad of one little girl, but that’s it.
All my 8 kids in one pic.. oh god do I love them all pic.twitter.com/amFvwmDDgF
— Raheem Sterling (@sterling31) August 6, 2014
Nonetheless, he told England Manager Roy Hodgson that he was feeling tired before a European Championship qualifier against Estonia last week, so Hodgson benched him, leaving Sterling in spin control.
Liverpool manager Rodgers came to the defense of his youthful charge, denying that Sterling said he was too tired to play for England.
“The boy is being hung out to dry and I dare say the criticism will continue for a few more weeks to come because of this,” Rodgers said late last week.
But the Liverpool boss went on to pay Sterling a somewhat backhanded compliment, saying that he recalled no less than five games when Sterling came to him beforehand complaining he felt tired. But the teen never backed out of a game, Rodgers said.
Nonetheless, whatever the reason, fatigue may be getting to Liverpool, as the Reds with their heavy schedule of Champions League and domestic competition stood in ninth place, with a mediocre 3-3-1 record going into Sunday’s matchup at Queens Park Rangers.