Brendan Rodgers: Liverpool Addressed Mario Balotelli-Pepe Shirt Swap Internally

Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers quickly doused the fire surrounding Mario Balotelli’s controversial jersey exchange before it could spread.

Balotelli was criticized for exchanging jerseys with Pepe at halftime of Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League game between Liverpool and Real Madrid. Liverpool was trailing 3-0 at the break when the Liverpool striker and Real Madrid defender swapped shirts on the way to the tunnel at Anfield, angering fans and pundits.

Mario Balotelli Pepe shirt swap

Rodgers substituted Balotelli at halftime, and Liverpool ultimately lost by the same scoreline.

After the game, Rodgers explained that he only made the change for tactical reasons. However, Rodgers also told Sky Sports that he didn’t agree with Balotelli’s mid-game jersey exchange.

“We will deal with it,” Rodgers said, according to the Guardian. “We had an incident with a player last year and we did it internally. It is not something I stand for. If you want to do that, you do it at the end of the game. It is something I will deal with tomorrow.”

Rodgers said Thursday that he had dealt with the issue of Balotelli’s shirt swap but didn’t reveal exactly how he had done so, according to the Liverpool Echo.

“Any action would be kept within ourselves,” Rodgers said at his press conference ahead of Saturday’s game against Hull City. “I’ve had a conversation on the culture in this country and in particular at Liverpool, and that was it. Matter closed.”

Balotelli has struggled since joining Liverpool from AC Milan in August. Rodgers defended Balotelli’s effort but didn’t guarantee the striker would have a long-term future at Anfield.

“The boy is genuinely trying very, very hard,” Rodgers said. “Longer term, we will see how that works out for him.

“As long as he is doing his best, that’s all I can ask as a manager. Whether that best is going to be good enough longer term remains to be seen.”

Liverpool-Real Madrid verdict: Reds outclassed >>

Review our live blog of Liverpool-Real Madrid >>

Daniel Sturridge’s latest injury will prolong Liverpool’s scoring woes >>

GIF via Reddit

Thumbnail photo by Jon Super/The Associated Press

TMZ logo

© 2018 NESN

Partner of USATODAY Sports Digital Properties