Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli says he is unfazed by criticisms of his performances this season and that he now plays football with more verve than ever before.
The Italy striker has yet to open his scoring account in the Premier League since joining the ‘Reds’ from AC Milan for £16m last summer.
And with Daniel Sturridge not expected to be back before the New Year due to a niggling injury problem- most recently a thigh injury set-back- there is added pressure on the 24-year-old alongside his strike partners, Rickie Lambert and Fabio Borini, to justify Brendan Rodgers’ faith.
But Balotelli thinks opinions of himself by those outside his inner circle are trivial.
“I don’t need people to believe in me so long as I believe in myself,” he told Fox Sports Australia. “The important people for me are my family and my few close friends.”
Criticism of Balotelli has centred not only around his lack of goals but the apparent unwillingness to put in the effort on the pitch. However, the striker insists he is working harder than ever before and rated his overall performance as 7/10 – a half-point increase on the assessment of himself two years ago.
“I run more than before,” he added. “I’ve never run like this…so I give a half point more. Goals, they will come. It is something that’s just not coming at the moment.”
Sturridge’s latest injury setback has prompted a full medical investigation. The England international has made only three appearances this season and Liverpool have won just four out of 14 games in his absence.
Rodgers revealed the Anfield club’s medical staff are all hands on deck to unearth the source of his repeated problems, which has had him miss 30 of 82 matches since joining from Chelsea in January 2013.
Sturridge, who only returned to full training last week, suffered a tear in his thigh which is expected to keep him on the sidelines until early 2015.
“It’s hugely disappointing to lose a player of that quality,” the Northern Irish boss told the Liverpool Echoe. “It happened in a session and it was quite innocuous. He did it when he just flicked the ball, it wasn’t a shot or anything that looked serious.
“Obviously he felt the pain and then when the medical team told me the next day after the scan it was disappointing.
“I think that’s his ninth injury on that thigh from previous clubs and here so there is an issue there somewhere.
“Most players you’ll find want to play through an injury to get onto the field. Very few go out there and are 100 per cent. The scan shows a slight tear just below where he had a previous injury.”