Mancini won't pick Balotelli till he's in form

Italy are focusing on youth in their rebuilding. But they will need in-form players like Lorenzo Insigne, who has six goals for Napoli in eight Serie A games this season, to fire them back into contention in the Nations League.
Italy are focusing on youth in their rebuilding. But they will need in-form players like Lorenzo Insigne, who has six goals for Napoli in eight Serie A games this season, to fire them back into contention in the Nations League.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MILAN • Mario Balotelli will be recalled to the Italy squad only when he is in form and firing in the goals at club level, new Azzurri coach Roberto Mancini said ahead of today's friendly at home to Ukraine.

The former Manchester City boss, who took over the reins in May after Italy missed out on this year's World Cup for the first time in 60 years, reiterated that his decision to drop the maverick forward for the upcoming internationals was purely based on a "technical judgment".

His side host Ukraine in Genoa today before visiting Poland for a Uefa Nations League match four days later, having taken only one point from their opening two games in the new competition.

"They are not in the best form at the moment, but they are part of the group and the door is open for everyone. When they are at 100 per cent, they will be recalled," said Mancini, who also revealed that Torino striker Andrea Belotti's omission was for the same reason.

Balotelli returned to the national team in May after a four-year absence but was criticised for his performance in last month's 1-1 draw against Poland in the Nations League and was dropped for the subsequent loss to Portugal.

The 28-year-old has played only three times for his French Ligue One club Nice this season without getting off the mark, and he was left out of the squad for their league match at Toulouse on Saturday.

While Belotti has been a regular starter, playing in his side's eight Serie A matches this term, he has scored only twice - well short of his usual standards.

Mancini, who is attempting to restore Italy's fortunes with younger players, called for patience, with the team building towards the Euro 2020 qualifiers, which start next March. In a bid to bolster the side's defence, he has called up Cristiano Piccini of Valencia and Sampdoria's Lorenzo Tonelli for the first time.

"The word patience is not part of our vocabulary, we are used to criticism," he added. "With hard work, we will put together a good team. We have chosen to focus on young players and it will take some time. We are Italy and we must return to being among the best in the world."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 10, 2018, with the headline 'Mancini won't pick Balotelli till he's in form'. Print Edition | Subscribe