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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TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Manchester CityMan City23202167175062
2Manchester UnitedMan Utd23155348163250
3Liverpool23138254282647
4Chelsea23145441162547
5Tottenham HotspurSpurs23135546212544
6Arsenal23116641301139
7Burnley239771920-134
8Leicester CityLeicester238783432231
9Everton2376102538-1327
10Watford2375113342-926
11West Ham UnitedWest Ham2367102941-1225
12Crystal Palace2367102133-1225
13Bournemouth2366112435-1124
14Huddersfield TownHuddersfield2366111939-2024
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle2365122131-1023
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton2358101729-1223
17Southampton2349102334-1121
18Stoke CityStoke2355132350-2720
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom23310101830-1219
20Swansea CitySwansea2345141435-2117
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