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Sunday 4 December 2016

By Carl Markham, Press Association Sport

By Carl Markham, Press Association Sport

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers insists Mario Balotelli's future lies in the player's own hands despite his omission from their pre-season tour.

The Italy international was among a number of players, Jose Enrique and Fabio Borini included, who were left behind at the club's Melwood training base while the rest flew out for friendlies in Thailand, Australia and Malaysia.

After just four goals, only one of which came in the Premier League, in his debut season the £16million signing is top of the summer clear-out list.

"Mario is obviously not on tour but working hard and training well with a number of other players at Melwood," he told a press conference after arriving in Kuala Lumpur for Friday's game against a Malaysia XI.

Asked if Balotelli would still be a Liverpool player come the end of the transfer window, he added: "I'm not sure, that will entirely be up to Mario.

"He is working hard to get fit and we will see when the season begins."

Despite Rodgers' claims the arrival of £32.5million Aston Villa striker Christian Benteke, which Press Association Sport understands is expected to be confirmed later after he completed his medical and travelled up to Merseyside to await the final exchange of paperwork, looks certain to hasten Balotelli's exit.

Benteke will become the Reds' seventh signing of the summer following the arrival of James Milner, Danny Ings, Joe Gomez, Adam Bogdan, Roberto Firmino and Nathaniel Clyne at a combined cost of more than £80million.

However, the Reds boss would not speak about transfers in or out.

"I am only interested in talking about players that I currently have here," he added.

"Not about players coming in or going out. We're here just to develop the fitness of the players here and help them improve tactically.

"With half a new team coming in, we want to keep improving the dynamic and cohesion of the team.

"Last season was a disappointment for us. We had to ensure we brought in quality to help us improve and we have done that.

"The mentality of the players we signed was very important. I'm happy with those we've brought in.

"I've got an inherent belief they can help us push on this season.

"We are very hopeful that we will go on and be competitive this season and challenge on all fronts."

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