Liverpool and Besiktas squared off in Thursday’s Europa League action. Liverpool won 1-0 on a late penalty, but the drama surrounding the penalty was the most entertaining part.
It began when Jordan Henderson — Liverpool’s captain for the day in Steven Gerrard’s absence — decided that he would take the penalty, although he had never taken a penalty of importance. Mario Balotelli had a better idea: he would take it. Henderson didn’t seem very pleased with Mario’s conclusion but ultimately relented.
Balotelli dispatched the penalty, which shouldn’t come as a surprise because he’s a fantastic penalty taker. To celebrate, he tried to hug it out with his captain, but Henderson wasn’t ready to hug it out properly, or maybe that’s just the world manipulating slow motion.
But really, what was Henderson to do?
Back during the 2009-10 Serie A season, Balotelli was playing with Inter Milan. Inter was home to Palermo and had an early penalty. The prolific Samuel Eto’o stepped up. But 19-year-old Balotelli had different ideas. That time, however, Inter captain-legend Javier Zanetti very efficiently shut down those ideas.
This Vine may have been circulating because it’s funny. That’s always an option. But it might also be circulating because people think there’s a lesson in this about how young Jordan should handle Mario. If that’s the case, we need to be careful, because 1) Henderson is not Zanetti, no matter how many loops you watch of him trying to mean-mug Diego Costa, 2) Zanetti earned that clout over the course of decades, not a decent season or two, 3) Henderson isn’t Eto’o, and 4) Henderson is Jordan Henderson.
Since the penalty drama, Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers has said that there was no drama, that Balotelli was in the right. Balotelli echoed those sentiments on Instagram.
While it’s possible that all these “no drama ” retorts are true, it’s just as possible that the drama was real and everyone at Liverpool is now very reasonably doing everything possible to put this behind them.
That’s the most sensible out: Paint Balotelli as a hungry hero, paint Henderson as a hungry yet selfless leader, and pretend Steven Gerrard, post-match, never said, “Jordan is the captain and Mario showed Jordan a bit of disrespect there, but he’s scored a very important goal.”
That way, everyone wins. Except the truth. Probably.