Balotelli Returns To Italy Squad As Mancini Plots Revival

Balotelli Returns As Mancini Plots Italy Revival
File photo: Mario Balotelli


New Italy coach Roberto Mancini on Saturday recalled Nice striker Mario Balotelli to the Azzurri fold for three upcoming friendlies as he begins the job of reviving Italian fortunes.

Mancini was appointed last Monday, six months after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following the four-time world champions’ failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.

The 53-year-old, who left Zenit Saint Petersburg to take the job, unveiled his first 30-man squad for matches against Saudi Arabia, France and the Netherlands.

Mancini takes charge of his first game against the Saudis in St Gallen, Switzerland on May 28.

As expected, the 27-year-old Balotelli was included for the first time in nearly four years.

Balotelli has scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the Azzurri but has not played international football since Italy’s humiliating group-stage exit from the 2014 World Cup.

Balotelli was last called up by coach Antonio Conte in November 2014 but did not play because of injury.

He has now been given another chance by Mancini, who coached him at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.

Balotelli has resurrected his career since joining Nice in 2016 after less successful spells with AC Milan and Liverpool, scoring 26 goals in all competitions this season, without any of the bad-boy behaviour that previously dogged his career.

Italy are not spoilt for choice with forwards so Balotelli’s success with Nice could not be overlooked by Mancini.

As a youngster, Balotelli was part of the Inter side coached by Jose Mourinho that won the Champions League in 2010.

He also won three Serie A titles with Inter before switching to Manchester City and helping them claim the Premier League crown in 2012.

Meanwhile, Mancini’s squad was without goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon who this week confirmed he would not play again for the national side.

The presence of Buffon — who holds the record for Italy caps with 176 — proved controversial during friendlies in March with his critics wanting him to move over for a younger generation.

In his absence, Mancini has recalled Salvatore Sirigu, who has had a successful season since joining Torino, alongside AC Milan teenager Gianluigi Donnarumma and Genoa’s Mattia Perin.

Among the veterans there was no call-up for Roma captain Daniele De Rossi, with Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini absent through injury.

The captain’s armband is expected to go to AC Milan centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.

Five players have been given a first call-up — Chelsea left-back Emerson Palmieri, Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli, Crotone midfielder Rolando Mandragora, Sassuolo striker Domenico Berardi and Atalanta defender Mattia Caldara.

Along with defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani, midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini and strikers Federico Chiesa and Federico Bernardeschi are among the promising youngsters who are expected to put Italy back on the road to victory.

The squad will meet for the first time at the Italian national team’s training camp at Coverciano near Florence on May 23.

Italy squad

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino);

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Mattia Caldara (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St Petersburg/RUS), Danilo D’Ambrosio (Inter Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri Dos Santos (Chelsea/ENG), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea/ENG)

Midfielders: Daniele Baselli (Torino), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Jorginho (Napoli), Rolando Mandragora (Crotone), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Nice/FRA), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Sassuolo), Simone Verdi (Bologna), Simone Zaza (Valencia/ESP)


Juventus Coach, Allegri Denies Balotelli Interest

BalotelliJuventus coach, Massimiliano Allegri, has denied media reports linking Liverpool’s under-pressure striker, Mario Balotelli, with a move to the Turin giants in the January transfer window.

The Italy international has scored just two goals since joining Liverpool from AC Milan in a £16million transfer in August and has yet to find the back of the net in the Premier League.

Allegri told Italian TV station RAI: “I think this is a made up story. Balotelli has done very well with me but he belongs to Liverpool and he is not a player that can arrive at Juventus.”

Allegri had coached Balotelli at AC Milan before taking over at Juve in July.

Balotelli’s agent, Mino Raiola, has, however, thrown his weight behind the 24-year-old, who has also been linked to French club, Paris St Germain.

He insists that despite Balotelli’s slow start to life at Anfield, the former Inter Milan striker will come good at Liverpool.

Also speaking to RAI, “Mario has been out for almost 10 weeks with an injury and you cannot judge him until he is 100 per cent fit. It’s not easy to go abroad and adapt quickly to a new team.”

“Now he is not doing well at Liverpool for different reasons but Mario is calm and he is working to return to be in top condition. I do not regret this transfer and Mario’s departure from Milan.”

Balotelli is under contract with Liverpool until June 2017.

The striker played almost three seasons at Manchester City before joining AC Milan in January 2013.

Liverpool Sign Balotelli For £16m

balotelliItaly international, Mario Balotelli, has completed his £16m move to Liverpool from Serie A side AC Milan.

Balotelli sealed his switch to Anfield after passing a medical and agreeing a long-term deal to become the Reds’ ninth signing of the summer so far.

The 24-year-old, who arrived at Melwood on Monday afternoon to put the finishing touches to the transfer before undergoing a one-on-one session with Liverpool’s head of conditioning and fitness, Ryland Morgans, described the Brendan Rodgers’ side as the best team in England

‘I’m very happy. We’ve been talking about coming here and now I’m happy to be here. Liverpool are one of the best teams here in England and the football is very good here.

‘It’s a great team with young players, and that’s why I came here”. The 24 year old said on the club’s official website.

Balotelli, who will wear the number 45 shirt, also revealed he had made an error leaving England on in January 2013.

“I’m happy to be back because I left England and it was a mistake,” he said. “I wanted to go to Italy, but I realised it was a mistake.”

“English football is generally better. English football is beautiful.”

Balotelli watched Liverpool’s game at City from the directors’ box after meeting his new team-mates in the changing rooms before the match. After the game, he will travel back to Liverpool on the team coach

Coach Brendan Rodgers, is of the view that Liverpool made a smart business move by signing the volatile player after the sale of last season’s top scorer, Luis Suarez to Barcelona.

“This transfer represents outstanding value for the club and I think we have done a really smart piece of business here”. Rodgers said

“There is no doubting Mario’s ability,” added Rodgers. “He is a world-class talent and someone who, for such a young age, has vast experience of playing at the very highest level.

“He has scored goals in the Barclays Premier League, in Italy, in the Champions League and for his country at international level.

“I believe we have the infrastructure, culture and environment to get the best out of him and help him achieve his true potential.

“We are a strong group here, committed to hard work and he will benefit from being around it. I am looking forward to working with him and helping him learn more, improve and progress as a player.

“I’m sure the supporters will make him feel very welcome”.

The Ghanaian born – Italian was a big hit with City supporters, helping the club win a first league title since 1968.

But he was also in the headlines for several off-the-pitch incidents, including a training-ground row with then-manager Roberto Mancini and in his second season in Manchester, he scored only three goals in 20 games.

The striker agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Milan in January 2013 and played for Italy at the World Cup in Brazil scoring against England

Liverpool are understood to have sought assurances from Balotelli about his commitment and off-field behaviour as he is known to be a controversial figure, who has fallen out with previous managers and got into scrapes off the pitch.

Liverpool Agrees Deal With AC Milan To Sign Balotelli

BalotelliEnglish Premier League side, Liverpool, have agreed a £16m fee with AC Milan for striker, Mario Balotelli.

Manager, Brendan Rodgers, wants the 24 year old in order to strengthen his attack after last season’s top scorer,Luis Suarez, joined Spanish side, Barcelona.

It is understood that Balotelli would earn £125,000 a week, in move to Anfield that is nearly complete, subject to personal terms.

Negotiations are still taking place to agree terms with the player, but the former Manchester City’s forward, has already said his farewells in Italy.

AC Milan said in a statement on their website that the Italy international left Milanello’s sporting centre at 13:30 local time, after saying goodbye to his teammates.

“Before leaving the premises, the striker has said goodbye to members of Milan’s press office”.

This move has been described as a surprise by pundits, as Liverpool had approached Milan about the former Manchester City striker’s availability just weeks after Reds boss, Rodgers, denied making a move.

Rodgers spoke quite plainly when asked about the possibility of signing Mario Balotelli, saying “He is a wonderful player, but an AC Milan player, I just gave my opinion of him, but doesn’t mean I will be signing him.”

The Ghanaian – born, Italy international, was a big hit with City supporters during his first spell in England, helping the club win a first league title since 1968, but he was also in the headlines for several off-the-pitch incidents, including a training ground bust-up with then manager, Roberto Mancini.

In his second season in Manchester, he scored only three goals in 20 games and subsequently agreed a four-and-a-half-year deal with Milan in January 2013.

Since returning to Italy, he has scored 30 goals in 54 games, the same amount he scored for City in 80 games but the Serie A side endured a difficult campaign last season, finishing eighth in Serie A and failing to qualify for Europe.

He was heavily linked with Arsenal earlier in the summer, but after bringing in Alexis Sanchez from Barcelona for £35m, Arsene Wenger ruled out signing another forward.

Liverpool have so far brought in only one front-man for the new campaign, signing Rickie Lambert from Southampton for £4m.


World Cup: Italy Meet Upstart Costa Ricans, France Seek Second Win

italyItaly will not be resting on their laurels when they face surprise Group D leaders, Costa Rica, in Recife on Friday (1600 GMT) after Luis Suarez revived Uruguay’s qualification hopes.

Costa Rica, seen before the tournament as the makeweights in a group with three former champions, have the superior goal difference after their shock 3-1 win over Uruguay in their opening game.

Uruguay moved back into the frame with a 2-1 victory over England in Sao Paulo on Thursday to stand level with Italy.

The Italians would again look to Mario Balotelli, scorer of their second goal against England, to spearhead them to victory before their final group clash with Uruguay.

Former winners, France, meet Switzerland in Salvador (1900) as the top two clash in Group E, which the French lead after a 3-0 win over 10-man Honduras that included a Karim Benzema brace.

The Swiss would provide tougher opposition having shown their resilience to snatch a last-gasp 2-1 win over Ecuador, who go up against the Hondurans in Curitiba (2200).

Ecuador are favorites to beat a Honduras side missing the suspended Wilson Palacios, who was sent off against the Swiss.

Italy Prepares To Play Truculent Czech Republic

Ahead of the 2014 World Cup qualification, Italy has notched up preparations to take on resilient Czech Republic in Prague today.

According the Coach of the Azzuri side; Cesare Prandelli, the Italian team will have to be wary of complacency when they eventually go into the clash with the Czech Republic and it either to take a huge step towards qualifying for Brazil with a win in Prague, as victory will see them eight points clear of their opponents, concede the whole points to them or settle for a draw and the last two options certainly does not feature in his plan.

Prandelli also pointed out Czech Republic skipper Tomas Rosicky, hinting that it won’t be an easy trip for Italy.

Prandelli said he and his team are awaiting a very aggressive Czech Republic team as they are capable of doing the fast flow on the pitch, as he also qualified Rosicky whom he earlier pointed as the main threat as an excellent player.

Italy is unbeaten in qualifying so far, with four wins and a draw from their five games.

Their only slip up was a 2-2 draw against second-placed Bulgaria, but with Denmark also in a tough-looking Group B, they can’t afford to drop many more points.

Messi, van Persie, Ronaldo others on Uefa Best Player shortlist

Uefa has announced a list of the 32 players who are in contention for their award for the best player of Europe.

La Liga champions Real Madrid are the most represented club on the list, with seven players, followed by Premier League holders Manchester City, who boast six players.

Champions League winners Chelsea and Catalan giants Barcelona boast four players each, while Radamel Falcao is the sole player from Europa League champions, Atletico Madrid.

The players were chosen by a jury of journalists from each of Uefa’s 53 member associations. The governing body for European football will reveal on August 14 the names of the three players who were given the most points by the writers, who will then proceed to the live vote to choose the overall winner in Monaco.

Barca’s Lionel Messi was the winner of the first edition of the award, beating team-mate Xavi and Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo to the honour.

Raul and Didier Drogba have left Europe since their exploits last season for Al Sadd and Shanghai Shenhua respectively, while Shinji Kagawa’s form for Borussia Dortmund earned him a summer move to Manchester United.

Player               Club

Sergio Aguero Manchester City

Xabi Alonso Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli Manchester City

Jakub Blaszczykowski Borussia Dortmund

Gianluigi Buffon Juventus

Iker Casillas Real Madrid

Petr Cech Chelsea

Fabio Coentrao Real Madrid

Leslie Davies Bangor City

Didier Drogba Chelsea

Cesc Fabregas Barcelona

Radamel Falcao Atletico Madrid

Joe Hart Manchester City

Zlatan Ibrahimovic AC Milan

Andres Iniesta Barcelona

Shinji Kagawa Borussia Dortmund

Vincent Kompany Manchester City

Frank Lampard Chelsea

Lionel Messi Barcelona

Luka Modric Tottenham

Mesut Ozil Real Madrid

Pepe Real Madrid

Andrea Pirlo Juventus

Sergio Ramos Real Madrid

Raul Schalke
Cristiano Ronaldo Real Madrid

Wayne Rooney Manchester United

David Silva Manchester City

Fernando Torres Chelsea

Yaya Toure Manchester City

Robin van Persie Arsenal

Xavi Barcelona

A live vote will be conducted to reveal the overall winner of the accolade after the final three most nominated players are revealed next month.

Mario Balotelli’s leadership role not trusted- Mancini

channels_television_mario_balotelli_roberto_manciniManchester City Boss Roberto Mancini admitted that he is clueless as to what can happen on the field of play if he allows Mario Balotelli the leading role of his team in final games of the English Premier league as he does not trust the 21 year old.

Roberto Mancini presently has a lot to worry for as Sergio Aguero is down with a foot injury and has been ruled out so is Carlos Tevez who with his level of fitness cannot endure 90 minutes, so  the option left for the Italian will be to put on Balotelli or Dzeko’s shoulder the responsibility of leading the squad out for the remaining season to create and score goals for Manchester City and this he is not trusting Balotelli for as he said when asked if he can trust Balotelli in terms of delivering goals.

Mancini is now left with Balotelli and a last option Edin Dzeko as the only fit strikers that will lead the squad against Sunderland at the Etihad stadium admitted that though Balotelli is a top player and can score goals but he can’t be trusted as his game can never be predicted.

He openly expressed his disappointment over Balotelli’s performance in the Chelsea game.

The season has been impressive for Manchester City and the Boss Roberto Mancini who has had about 15 goals  to notch up his game plan and on the negative gotten bans, sending off and topping it up with seven yellow cards recorded for the club.

Mancini said he cares less what Balotelli does with his time but admitted he would have to show signs of maturity sooner rather than later if he wants to fulfil his undoubted potential.

Mancini played down the training ground bust up with Balotelli but insisted that the Italian is a key member of Manchester City and his focus own focus is on clinching the league championship and Balotelli has to improve his game somehow.

Mancini also warned his players against complacency against Sunderland as with three points, City will be back to the top of the table ahead of United’s trip to Blackburn on Monday night and Mancini stressed the importance of getting back on track after dropping points against Stoke a week ago.

He stressed further that Manchester City needs to win every game remaining to end the league if they want to emerge the league champion for the season.