Brendan Rodgers has revealed that Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli effectively ruled himself out of contention for the Premier League clash against Arsenal on 4 April.
The Reds, needing to record a victory to preserve their hopes of securing Champions League qualification following a galling defeat to Manchester United before the international break, put in an extremely disappointing performance at the Emirates Stadium and suffered a chastening 4-1 loss that surely ends any chance of sneaking a top-four finish.
Raheem Sterling started as Rodgers' lone striker against Arsenal despite a controversial week in which he confirmed he has rejected the opportunity to sign a lucrative extension to his current contract, with Daniel Sturridge only fit enough for the bench after a hip injury.
Italian Fabio Borini, who has hardly set the Premier League alight for Liverpool since arriving from Roma in 2012, was Liverpool's other primary attacking substitute in North London, with compatriot Balotelli a surprising omission from the matchday squad after featuring in a charity match at Anfield last weekend.
The decision to leave Balotelli out entirely was seemingly not made by Rodgers, however, but by the player himself.
"He trained on Friday afternoon with the team and he took a slight knock to his knee and he deemed himself not able to travel," Rodgers, who appeared to have no grievance with the choice, was quoted as saying by the Daily Mail.
"I'm not a medic. He felt it was too sore to travel. The medical staff have looked at it. It was just something that he himself didn't feel comfortable enough to travel."
Balotelli has been very disappointing indeed during his first season on Merseyside. While many hailed his £16m switch from AC Milan in August 2014 as arguably the bargain of the summer, his lack of impact and measly return of just one goal from 14 top-flight appearances has led to speculation that he could exit the club during the next transfer window.