Didi Hamann has argued that Mario Balotelli is on his last chance at Liverpool with the former midfielder insisting the fans need to get behind him.
Balotelli found himself in hot water after swapping his shirt with Real Madrid star Pepe at half time during the week as the Reds fell to their opposition 3-0 at home. While Brendan Rodgers publicly chastised him, many have insisted that he wasn't aware of English cultural norms regarding the incident.
Having yet to score in the Premier League, the pressure is mounting on Balotelli as Liverpool look a shell of their former selves after coming close to winning the title last season. Touted as a possible replacement for Luis Suarez, the Italian has failed to show the sparkle of his best days at Manchester City so far.
But Hamann believes that with the fans behind him he will get better, telling the Liverpool Echo: "It's hard for the fans to accept as they see a kid who gets paid loads of money and they want him to do everything to be successful.
"But we all have to take a step back. He has had issues in the past. He needs support, full stop. He has to be criticised for not playing well, not because he swapped shirts.
"But you have to be careful. The more you criticise Balotelli, the more he goes into his shell.
"And if Brendan Rodgers had the chance to tear up Balotelli's contract, would he? I don't think so."
He also insisted that Balotelli is well aware that he's on his last chance, saying that his performances between now and the end of the year will shape his future as a footballer while Liverpool look to get back in contention for a top four finish.
"Liverpool don't seem to be a team at the moment and Balotelli is a big part of that," he explained.
"If he got a goal every game you wouldn't care about him flailing his arms around at his team-mates when a pass goes astray. But something has to come from Mario. He needs to change.
"From now until Christmas is make or break for him. If he is ever going to make it as a footballer, this is his time. He hasn't achieved much as a player on a personal level. A guy of his ability should be leading from the front, competing for honours.
"This is his last chance. He needs to realise that. He has to convince his team-mates as well. But the guy who ends up bearing the brunt of that is the manager, never mind the fans or team-mates.
"He has a responsibility to the manager."