Former Chelsea and AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko believes Mario Balotelli is deserving of the second chance handed to him by Liverpool – and has backed the striker to help them win the Champions League.
Balotelli arrived on Merseyside for a fee of £16m from Milan as Brendan Rodgers added nine players to his squad as the club prepare for Champions League football for the first time in five years.
The Italian international left Manchester City in January 2012 after a spell at the Etihad where controversy frequently followed him. The striker fell out with former manager Roberto Mancini and returned to Italy but 2004 Ballon d'Or winner Shevchenko believes the player shouldn't be judged on his past indiscretions.
"If he was not happy and Milan weren't either, it was right to separate," the former Ukrainian international said. "But I saw Mario at the European Championships two years ago in Ukraine and Poland – he was a fantastic player and I refuse to believe that this has been lost along the way.
"Balotelli deserves another chance and Liverpool will give it to him. They are a great team, he can aspire to also win the Champions League, it is up to him to overcome the difficulties and take back control of his destiny."
Balotelli made his second Premier League debut last Sunday against Tottenham Hotspur as Liverpool cruised to a 3-0 victory. The 24-year-old was guilty of spurning two chances for a debut goal but his manager was nonetheless pleased with his efforts in north London.
"He has bought straight into our team ethic," Rodgers said on Sunday. "For the first time in his life he marked at a corner."
Liverpool's return to Europe this season has seen them drawn alongside newcomers Ludogorets Razgrad, Swiss champions FC Basel and holders Real Madrid in the group stages.