Andrea Pirlo: 'Mario Balotelli needs to be loved'

Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo hits back at Mario Balotelli's critics, claiming that the Liverpool striker needs to be "loved" and managed appropriately.

Juventus midfielder Andrea Pirlo has hit back at Mario Balotelli's critics, claiming that the Liverpool striker needs to be managed appropriately.

The 24-year-old Italy international has come under scrutiny for his performances in the Reds shirt, which some have judged as sub-par.

However, former teammate Pirlo is quoted by the Daily Mail as saying: "There is no question over [Balotelli's] talent - I have played with him and I know how good he is and how good he can be. It is the job of the Liverpool coach to manage him in the right way.

"He needs to be loved, he needs direction, but most importantly he needs to know that the coach believes in him. If he spends time with Mario, I know he can go on and be a great player for Liverpool."

Some of Balotelli's teammates, such as Martin Skrtel and Rickie Lambert, have rallied in support of the former Manchester City man.

Manager Brendan Rodgers of liverpool looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Fulham and Liverpool at Craven Cottage on February 12, 2014
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