Rickie Lambert has labelled Mario Balotelli’s training habits a “disgrace”, while admitting his frustration that the Italian started ahead of him at Liverpool.
The two were team-mates at Anfield in 2014-15 after Lambert joined his boyhood club from Southampton.
That same summer, Balotelli came to Liverpool in a shock move from AC Milan, with the two tasked with replacing the goal production of Barcelona-bound Luis Suarez.
It didn’t happen, with the duo only combining for seven goals during what turned out to be their lone campaign at Anfield.
And, looking back on that season, Lambert recalls his time with Liverpool fondly, despite being frustrated with the fact that Balotelli was regularly selected ahead of him.
“It was great,” he told Bristol Live. “I returned to my home city as a different person than when I left. I was a lot more professional of course. And it went okay at first, I scored a couple and was quite happy.
“But I could tell that the players were all shocked at losing Luis Suarez, and how much of their game evolved around him. I was never going to replace someone like that, was I? Going in after him was hard, very hard.
“And then Brendan Rodgers brought in Mario Balotelli and put him in ahead of me, and it done my head in to be honest. I couldn’t understand.
“The way he used to train was a disgrace. Off the training pitch, he’s 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.”
Despite his overall happiness with his Liverpool tenure, Lambert does wish that he had been more ruthless and more selfish during his one-year stay.
“If I am being honest I know I didn’t do good enough at Liverpool. I wasn’t ruthless enough with the chances I was given, and it wasn’t a good time,” he said.
“And 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?