When Liverpool announced the addition of Mario Balotelli to the squad, fans and pundits around the world had one eye-brow firmly planted upward in surprise.
One colourful hairstyle and 23 Premier League shots without a goal later, Balotelli has reaffirmed his reputation as an enigma. Following several carefully worded press conferences, you get the feeling Brendan Rodgers didn't even want Balotelli to begin with.
Several weeks before Liverpool officially signed the former Milan ace, Liverpool were lodged in a battle with Arsenal for Alexis Sanchez - a battle they would eventually lose.
When asked if he would turn attentions to Balotelli, Rodgers firmly refuted the claim.
An official move for Loic Remy swiftly followed, as well as strong links to the likes of Marco Reus, Radamel Falcao, Wilfried Bony, Edinson Cavani and Karim Benzema.
For one reason or another none of the aforementioned moves were concluded, leaving Balotelli as a last resort. After a poor run of form, Rodgers was quick to remind the world of this fact.
Balotelli replacing Luis Suarez was always going to be a tough ask given the differences in style between the two. However, Balotelli's performances have also suggested there is a massive gulf in quality.
The difference between Balotelli and Suarez
Much has been made of Balotelli's profligacy in front of goal: he was had 23 shots (4.6 per game) and score none; last season, Suarez averaged 5.5 shots per game as he was the division's top scorer with 31 goals.
Even in general play the gulf between the two is distinct. Suarez averaged the second most dribbles last season with 2.8 dribbles per game; Balotelli has a poor return of just 0.4 per game.
Likewise, when it comes to creating chances, Suarez had 12 assists from 2.7 key passes per game; Balotelli has 0 assists from just 0.8 key passes.
How much of Balotelli's troubles are down to Liverpool as whole?
In defence of Balotelli, he has defied the experts who claimed he does not work hard; his tally of 1.2 tackles and 0.2 interceptions is along the lines of Suarez's 1.1 tackles and 0.3 interceptions.
Balotelli is also a safer pair of hands when it comes to retaining possession. He has only been dispossessed an average of 1.4 times per game and suffers a turnover rate of 1.2 per game.
Suarez on the other hand lost the ball quite frequently. His dispossession rate of 1.8 per game and 2.8 turnovers per game were among the highest in the league last season.
Using this line of argument, Balotelli's poor form could easily be explained by Liverpool's overall poor form. Although, Luis Suarez could have easily used this as an excuse in 2012 when Liverpool as a team where failing to fire. Nonetheless, he carried them during a rough period, scoring 23 Premier League goals - a tally that would have been higher had he not sunk his fangs into Ivanovic.
Conversely, Balotelli just does not look like scoring unless he has the entire team on song. In fact, it could be argued the only reason Balotelli retains the ball well is because he is taking a number of shots from ridiculous angles, disrupting Liverpool's flow of attack.
Whilst Suarez lost the ball more frequently, it was only because he took more risks in possession trying to create better chances for himself and his teammates.
This is upheld by the amount of average passes Suarez made last season (38.3) with a success rate of 74.8%. Compared to Balotelli's average pass of just 17.4 per game and success rate of 73.6%, it suggests Balotelli's unwise use of possession is a hindrance to Liverpool.
Liverpool have only scored more than once on four occasions this season:
Against Southampton - Balotelli was unavailable;
Against Tottenham - only time Liverpool fielded a full strength side this season;
Against Middlesbrough - lower league opposition and Balotelli was rested;
Against West Brom - Balotelli was dropped.
What will Sterling offer in Balotelli's place?
This is where Sterling comes in; he has produced numbers that are eerily similar to Suarez's. The teenager has made 2.9 dribbles per game (third highest in the Premier League); he has made 2.6 key passes this season (joint eighth best in the Premier League); he has a pass average of 34.3 per game with a success rate of 78.6%.
Not only is his overall game top notch, he is slowly building the productiveness needed to play as a forward with three goals and two assists.
Prior to the signing of Daniel Sturridge, Rodgers often toyed with the idea of playing Sterling as a forward. If nothing else, his blistering pace gives defenders something to think about; should Balotelli continue to flounder in front of goal, it will give Brendan Rodgers something to think about, too.
*Statistics courtesy of WhoScored.