Sports

Liverpool takes gamble by signing controversial Italy striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan

In this picture taken  Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli controls the ball during a Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Genoa, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. Liverpool could be about to replace one controversial striker with another.  Italy international Mario Balotelli has been lined up by the Premier League club as a potential replacement for Luis Suarez, who left Anfield to join Barcelona for $130 million. Balotelli, who spent 2½ years with Manchester City up to 2013, left the club's Milanello training ground on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, for possibly the last time. "Mario Balotelli left Milanello's sporting center at 1330 (local time) after saying goodbye to his teammates," Milan said in a statement. "Before going through the gates, he said goodbye to members of Milan's press office." (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

In this picture taken Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, AC Milan forward Mario Balotelli controls the ball during a Serie A soccer match between AC Milan and Genoa, at the San Siro stadium in Milan, Italy. Liverpool could be about to replace one controversial striker with another. Italy international Mario Balotelli has been lined up by the Premier League club as a potential replacement for Luis Suarez, who left Anfield to join Barcelona for $130 million. Balotelli, who spent 2½ years with Manchester City up to 2013, left the club's Milanello training ground on Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, for possibly the last time. "Mario Balotelli left Milanello's sporting center at 1330 (local time) after saying goodbye to his teammates," Milan said in a statement. "Before going through the gates, he said goodbye to members of Milan's press office." (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)  (The Associated Press)

Liverpool signed Italy striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan on Monday, taking a calculated gamble on a headline-grabbing player known as much for his controversies as his goals.

Nineteen months after ending a 2½-year spell with Manchester City to play for his boyhood club, Balotelli will return to the English Premier League as a replacement for Luis Suarez — another of world football's talented but disruptive stars.

Liverpool has been looking to strengthen its strikeforce after selling Suarez to Barcelona for $130 million.

During his time at City, in which he won the league title, Balotelli was sent off four times, threw a dart at a youth-team player and was involved in an incident that saw fireworks let off in his bathroom.

Days before news of the fireworks incident emerged, Balotelli had revealed a T-shirt under his City jersey with the question, "Why Always Me?" after scoring in the team's 6-1 win over Manchester United.

Balotelli, with his physique, technical ability and qualities as a finisher, is one of the world's best strikers and, at 24, the best times of his career could still lie ahead of him. At Milan, he scored 26 goals in 43 league matches and he is the Italian national team's top striker.

But with trouble always seeming to follow him, some are questioning whether Balotelli is worth the risk for Liverpool, which has fostered a strong team spirit under manager Brendan Rodgers that helped it finish second in the Premier League last season. Jose Mourinho described Balotelli as "unmanageable" during their time together at Inter Milan, which the striker left in 2010 to join City.

However, Rodgers got the best out of Suarez and current first-choice striker Daniel Sturridge, who both had turbulent pasts before arriving at Anfield. Sections of the British media have reported that Balotelli has had to agree to behavior clauses being included in his contract with Liverpool.

"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," Rodgers said Friday. "There will be nothing that will ever shake that or provoke it in any way."

Rodgers' attempts to bring in a striker has seen him look at Loic Remy of Queens Park Rangers, whose switch to Anfield broke down at the last minute, and former Barcelona, Inter Milan and Chelsea star Samuel Eto'o. Last month, during Liverpool's tour of the United States, Rodgers was linked with a bid for Balotelli.