Mario Balotelli should be recalled to the Italy squad if Roberto Mancini is appointed as coach, according to five former Italy players interviewed by La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Mancini is expected to be named as the successor to Gian Piero Ventura, and his experience of working with Balotelli at Manchester City and Inter Milan could lead to the Nice forward returning to the national team for the first time since the 2014 World Cup.
That would be a boost both for Balotelli and Italy, as the striker has scored 31 goals in 49 Ligue 1 appearances over two seasons.
“He deserves it for what he is doing on the field,” said Marco Materazzi, part of the 2006 World Cup-winning team. “That’s without forgetting that off the field he’s not been as controversial as has been made out, while Mancini has the advantage of knowing how to deal with him and how to make him feel wanted.”
According to Pierluigi Casiraghi, a return for Balotelli is long overdue, and he would have preferred to have seen him included in the World Cup playoff late last year.
“He knows how to find the spot, which is something we lacked against Sweden,” he said. “Not only has he scored regularly for Nice, but he’s also found a certain consistency this year.”
According to former Italy goalkeeper Gianluca Pagliuca, there is “no other Italian forward with Mario’s technical and physical qualities,” and that as a former goalkeeper, “Balotelli seems to be a very difficult opponent to face.”
Marco Tardelli, the former assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni, has “a lot of faith in Balotelli, also because I believe that now he’s 28, he will have worked out for himself that his is really his last chance.”
He added: “He can give added value — he is an extra option for the attack for the coach, and not a bad one. We don’t have a forward like him.”
And Demetrio Albertini believes Balotelli “is a player capable of doing extraordinary things when he is in the right frame of mind,” believing Mancini could be the man to get him in that condition, although he remembers that they “also had some bad arguments” at Inter.
“But I don’t think it’s so much about the coach but rather about Mario’s attitude and how much he wants to play with a certain amount of continuity,” Albertini said. “Nobody has ever questioned his technical quality.”
Italy, who did not qualify for the World Cup this summer, crashed out in the group stage in 2014 in Balotelli’s most recent national team appearance.
Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.