Rome (AFP) – Mario Balotelli has been recalled for an Italy training camp this week so that coach Roberto Mancini, speaking on Wednesday, can see if the striker is able to “help” in the World Cup playoffs in March.
“What has he promised me? Absolutely nothing,” Mancini said in an online press conference at the start of the three-day camp in Florence.
The 31-year-old striker is playing for his 10th club, Adana Demirspor in Turkey, after spending last season in Serie B with Monza.
“He was called up as others have been called up. We are curious to see him again after a little time,” said Mancini, who coached Balotelli at both Inter Milan and Manchester City and recalled him in 2018, after a four-year absence from the national team, for the last three of his 36 Italy caps.
“He must not promise me anything, as I must not promise him anything. We will evaluate if he can help.”
“Technically, Mario has always been good, it’s not a problem. We have to see where he is physically. We’ve lost sight of him a little bit,” said Mancini who has summoned 35 players to the camp in preparation for the play-offs.
In 2018, Italy missed the World Cup for the first time in 60 years, after losing to Sweden 1-0 on aggregate in a two-leg playoff.
To reach Qatar, Italy must beat first Northern Macedonia at home on March 24 and then either Portugal or Turkey in a match scheduled for March 29.
“What is also fundamental is that a player is integrated into an existing group, a group that has had good results,” said Mancini, who led Italy to the European title in July.
Mancini rejected suggestions that recalling Balotelli was a “desperate” move.
“The door of the national team is always open to everyone,” he said.
Mancini said his main “concern” was not losing any more players to injury.
Attacker Federico Chiesa, one of the stars of Euro 2020, is out until the end of the season and left back Leonardo Spinazzola suffered an Achilles tendon injury at the tournament and is out for the season.
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