Liverpool hero Steve Nicol says manager Brendan Rodgers should have signed Southampton forward Shane Long over Mario Balotelli as the Italy international's horror spell at Anfield continues.
Balotelli is yet to score a Premier League goal for the Reds since joining from AC Milan while incidents including an ill-timed shirt swap with Real Madrid defender Pepe and an investigation from the Football Association over an offensive Instagram post are threatening to further damage his reputation on Merseyside.
The 24 year old brought with him a reputation for unruliness from his spell in Italy and at Manchester City, where he fell out on numerous occasions with then manager Roberto Mancini and amid a repeat of that behaviour, Nicol says Balotelli is "making a mockery of the club".
"They spent £16m on Balotelli but I would prefer to have signed someone like Shane Long," he told talkSPORT.
"He's someone who will come on the field and throw his guts into a game and give you everything he's got.
"He might not have the ability or the CV of Balotelli but the fans would love him. Instead, you've got a guy who is not producing on the field and who's making a mockery of the club off the field."
Long joined Southampton during the summer transfer window from Hull City but has only netted three times for the south coast club this season, struggling to adapt to his third club in the last 12 months.
Rodgers has indicated he will not use the January window to improve his squad but could be tempted to recall Iago Aspas from his loan spell at Sevilla after the Spaniard netted a hat-trick in four second half-minutes against Sabadell on Wednesday 3 December.
Aspas scored in the 59<sup>th, 60<sup>th and 63rd minutes to help Sevilla to an 11-2 Copa del Rey aggregate victory over the Spanish second division side to remind the Liverpool boss of his capabilities as he seek to reignite his career in English football.