Date: 18th November 2014 at 9:02am
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Former Reds boss Rafael Benitez has distanced current club Napoli from a January move for Mario Balotelli…

Misfiring Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli looks unlikely to be joining Napoli when the transfer window reopens in the new year.

The Italian side are expected to receive enquiries for current striker Gonzalo Higuain and Balotelli had been mooted by some sections of the media as a possible replacement.

Certain online sources have even suggested that a swap deal involving the two players could be in the offing, although that always sounded fanciful.

Speaking about the prospect of bringing Balotelli to Naples in the past 24 hours, Napoli boss Rafa Benitez remarked: “Liverpool fans are loyal – if he works in the field then they will support him.

“Mario coming to us in January though? There is absolutely nothing to this, it is just a hypothesis that I have never considered.”

Benitez is of course well-placed to comment on issues relating to Liverpool after a six year spell at Anfield (2004-10) that yielded a Champions League triumph and an FA Cup.

Since arriving from AC Milan for £16m in August, Balotelli has struggled to such an extent that many supporters and pundits believe the Reds should seriously consider offloading the 24-year-old at the earliest opportunity.

The statistics certainly don’t make happy reading for the former Inter and Manchester City man.

A meagre return of two goals in 14 appearances has been compounded by a couple of off-field issues and there is an overwhelming feeling that Balotelli’s languid style of play is ill-suited to the club’s tactics.

685 minutes of Premier League action are yet to yield a single goal and the forward has completed the full 90 on just four occasions in the competition.

In fairness to Balotelli, his impact has been hampered somewhat by the absence through injury of prospective strike partner Daniel Sturridge.

The duo have been paired together in attack just once – the impressive 3-0 win over Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane – and the Italian international is clearly not suited to playing as a lone frontman, even if Kop boss Brendan Rodgers‘ has persevered with the idea.

Thankfully Sturridge is now back in training and expected to be available when the Merseysiders face Crystal Palace on Sunday.

Balotelli’s chances of partnering him at Selhurst Park look promising despite the player returning early from international duty after picking up a hamstring problem.

Initial murmurings coming out of Melwood are that the issue isn’t as serious as first thought and he too should be ok to face the Eagles.

Vital Verdict
I would be shocked if Balotelli is sold in January, particularly as I doubt there would be any takers! There are surely not many clubs, if any, who could afford his wages, be prepared to put up with the circus that accompanies his every move and could convince him to move to a fifth club in five years. Not that Rodgers is ready to cut his losses yet anyway; after gambling on the enigmatic forward I expect him to at least be given until the summer to prove his worth. There have been some encouraging signs of late and with Sturridge back to relieve the pressure I thoroughly expect to see a marked improvement from Balotelli. A couple of league goals will do wonders for his confidence.

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