'Support him like you always did' - Mario Balotelli tells Liverpool fans to cheer on Raheem Sterling
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has risked inflaming tensions by tweeting a congratulatory message to his former team-mate, Raheem Sterling after he scored on his debut yesterday for Man City.
Liverpool fans, angered by the player's conduct during the months preceding his move, had been criticising him on social media, which may have led to Balotelli's comments.
"Well done @sterling31! Best answer. Keep it up," the Italian ex-City player wrote.
Balotelli, who had a difficult first season at Anfield, later attempted to clarify his remarks after receiving some abusive replies.
He tweeted: "Liverpool fans are amazing but i hope@sterling31 will play at his best because he deserve it. He's a good guy young and talented.....
"....support him Like you always did. He gave everything to this club and respect it so i'm sad to see this. YNWA, Liverpool is a family ALWAYS."
Sterling was pleased to be back playing football - and scoring goals - after an impressive Manchester City debut in Australia.
The England forward started to put some of the controversy surrounding his acrimonious £49million move from Liverpool behind him by quickly getting on the scoresheet for his new club in their latest pre-season friendly.
The 20-year-old found the net after just two minutes and 17 seconds of his first City appearance, against Roma at the vast Melbourne Cricket Ground.
"Back doing what I love doing," Sterling tweeted afterwards, along with a picture of himself celebrating his goal.
City won the game 5-4 on penalties after the scores finished 2-2 at the end of 90 minutes.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart proved the shoot-out hero, saving spot-kicks from Seydou Doumbia and Seydou Keita as well as smashing one in himself.
City's other goal in normal time came from impressive Nigerian teenager Kelechi Iheanacho with Roma scoring equalisers through Miralem Pjanic and Adem Ljajic.
Manager Manuel Pellegrini was pleased with the performance of club record signing Sterling and believes he has a big future at the club.
The Chilean told a press conference: "Well it is always important for the strikers to score. He scored very early in the game.
"He just played 45 minutes. He has worked with our team for just a few days so I am very happy with the way he played.
"He demonstrated why he is here, he demonstrated not only his value as a player. He is a very young player so I think he will improve a lot in the future, playing with Yaya (Toure), David Silva and (Sergio) Kun Aguero.
"I am very happy for him and very happy for our team to have bought him."