Italy manager Roberto Mancini admits Mario Balotelli needs improve his form if he wants to play at next summer’s European Championships.
The Azzurri boss worked with Balotelli at both Inter Milan and Manchester City and was called up to the national team for the first time in four years by Mancini in the summer of 2018.
However, Balotelli was dropped again a few months later by Mancini and the Italy manager has challenged the striker to improve his game at Brescia if he wants to appear for his country again.
Italy manager Roberto Mancini (right) has called on Mario Balotelli (left) to improve his form
Mancini brought Balotelli back to the international stage in 2018 but dropped him again
Mancini told Sky Sports: ‘In terms of the qualities he [Balotelli] has, he is one of the best around, but that’s not enough.’
‘He has to give more; at Brescia he hasn’t done a lot and he knows it. Our hope is to have him at 100 per cent, like in 2012 under [Cesare] Prandelli.’
Balotelli joined hometown club Brescia at the start of the 2019/20 season and has endured a mixed time in front of goal – scoring 5 goals in 19 Serie A apperances for the Bergamo club.
The pair worked together at Inter Milan and Manchester City and have a strained relationship
Balotelli now plays for Serie A side Brescia and has had a mixed 2019/20 season in Italy
Just like his spells at the rest of his career clubs, Balotelli’s Brescia journey has been accompanied with controversy and abuse.
He condemned racist attacks on him by Lazio fans in January of this year and was also sent off seven minutes into a substitute appearance against Cagliari later that month for picking up two yellow cards.
Another factor which doesn’t help Balotelli’s case is his competition for a forward role in the Italian national team.
Balotelli was sent off just seven minutes after coming off the bench against Cagliari in January
Lazio forward Ciro Immobile is one of the highest-scoring strikers in European football this season with 30 goals in 33 appearances in all competitions this season, while the likes of Lorenzo Insigne and Andrea Bellotti are also attractive options for the Azzurri.
This quality in attack made Italy many people’s dark horses for the Euro 2020 tournament this summer, but the tournament was pushed back a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
While Mancini is disappointed the Euros are not happening this year, he recognises not only the seriousness of the global pandemic but also the opportunity Italy has to develop its young stars.
He added: ‘None of us would have wanted the Euros to be postponed, especially for this reason. So many people have died and football becomes secondary. Right now, we have a young squad and we can still improve.
Mancini is now leading the national team to its first major tournament since Euro 2016
‘We would have had a chance this year, but there were teams who were more prepared and started earlier, or those who already imposed themselves like France.’
The extra year of preparation means many of Italy’s youngsters can continue their promising development in the game. For example, Roma wonderkid Niccolo Zaniolo would have missed Euro 2020 due to a long-term ligament injury, but now stands a real chance of appearing in ‘Euro 2021’.
On this, Mancini said: ‘With an extra year the guys will be able to improve by playing important games, so in this sense the national team will improve.
‘But we will have to see the games, because with matches being closer to each other we might have less time to prepare.
‘We’ve started a project that we can still improve, this is why having more time will help us.’