Rickie Lambert has branded Mario Balotelli ‘a disgrace’ as he opened up on how his dream move to boyhood club Liverpool went wrong in 2014.
The former England striker joined from Southampton after Brendan Rodgers had led Liverpool to a second-placed Premier League finish.
But Liverpool collapsed to sixth after the sale of Luis Suarez to Barcelona that summer, and Lambert lasted just one season.
Though he admits he was ‘never going to replace’ the Uruguayan, who had plundered 31 goals the previous campaign, it was his striking competition that most irked him.
“Brendan Rodgers brought in Mario Balotelli and put him in ahead of me…I couldn’t understand,” he told the Bristol Post.
“The way he used to train was a disgrace. Off the training pitch he is quite infectious, a lovely lad. But his persona on the training pitch is not good.
“When he played he did try, and I have come across players with that attitude before, but they are usually good enough to get away with it, but he wasn’t.
“I just didn’t understand how Rodgers was letting him get away with it and picking him ahead of me. It affected me directly, but it had a negative impact on the team.”
Balotelli was shipped out on loan after just one season at Anfield where he managed to score only four times in 28 appearances.
He was eventually sold by Jurgen Klopp to Nice in 2016.
Lambert joined West Brom in 2015, but he reveals he almost made a swift exit from Anfield within a matter of weeks of joining.
He added: “Pretty early on Rodgers tried to get rid of me to Crystal Palace where (Alan) Pardew was, so I knew I wasn’t ever going to be top priority.
“I said no immediately, why would leave a club like Southampton for years to come to Liverpool and leave after several weeks to go to Palace?”
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By Mthokozisi Dube