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Shirt-swapping Mario in Brendan’s bad books

SHIRTY: Balotelli did not impress (PA)

MARIO BALOTELLI’S £16m move to Liverpool in the summer has certainly not paid off so far as the forward lurches from one abject display to another, and his latest outing has left a bad taste in his manager’s mouth after the Reds were crushed 3-0 by Real Madrid.

The Italian striker was subbed off at half-time in the Champions League game for an anonymous performance, but boss Brendan Rodgers has been angered by the controversial player deciding to swap shirts with Real defender Pepe as they were in the tunnel.

The practice has raised eyebrows as it is normally conducted at the final whistle, and many managers, including Alex Ferguson, have deplored it and punished players caught out making the premature exchange.

Speaking after the chastening defeat, in which Ronaldo scored and Karim Benzema bagged two, Rodgers cut an unhappy figure, especially disappointed in Balotelli’s attitude.

The Reds boss said: “It is not something I stand for. If you want to do that, do it at the end of the game. It is something I will deal with on Thursday.

“It's something that doesn't happen here and shouldn't happen here.”

Liverpool defender Mamadou Sakho infuriated Rodgers last season when he did the same at half-time with Samuel Eto’o during a match against Chelsea, and his manager said similar action would be taken.

“We had an incident last year with a player and that was something we dealt with internally”, Rodgers added.

Balotelli’s latest gaffe casts further scrutiny on his temperament as criticism of his attitude gathers mass, with many alluding to his lack of effort and running.

Rodgers clearly expects at least a high work-rate and praised Balotelli’s replacement Adam Lallana for providing greater movement in the second half. He said: “It was purely tactical - I felt we needed a bit more movement centrally to occupy their centre-halves a bit more and I thought Raheem Sterling would do that.

“Adam Lallana came on and was tireless in his work rate. That is the minimum here at Liverpool - you need to press, you need to work. Young Adam came on and did that very well.”

Liverpool now face an uphill struggle to qualify for the knockout stages of the Champions League.

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