Mario Balotelli has been called up in the Italy squad for the First Time since 2018 as the European champions prepare for their World Cup play-off semi-final.
The 31-year-old attacker, who formerly played for Manchester City and Liverpool, has not represented his nation since September 2018.
After scoring eight goals in 18 league appearances for Turkish team Adana Demirspor, Balotelli is one of 35 players picked for a three-day training camp.
On March 24, Italy will play North Macedonia in a World Cup play-off semi-final.Balotelli has 14 goals in 36 appearances for his nation, although he has only been capped three times since the 2014 World Cup.
The training camp this week is one of Roberto Mancini’s last chances to gather his players together before the match against North Macedonia.
Balotelli previously worked with Mancini at Inter Milan and Manchester City.
Balotelli was sensationally summoned up by Roberto Mancini for a training camp at the end of January, after just over three years in the international wilderness, it was announced on Monday.
Few could have predicted this. Mancini, on the other hand, is in the same boat that Rodgers was in 2014. Maybe even more so.
With a spectacular style of energetic, aggressive football, Italy may have dominated Europe – and defied clichés – in 2021, but they did it without a prolific center-forward.
Ciro Immobile scored twice in the European Championship, as he was quick to note out earlier this month, and his goalscoring record should be appreciated as a past European Golden Shoe winner.
Even at Euro 2020, though, Immobile failed to resemble a world-class striker in the vein of Robert Lewandowski or Karim Benzema.
It’s always been that way for the Lazio icon, who has just 15 goals in 54 games for Italy.
Balotelli has just one fewer goal in 36 appearances, which is exactly why Mancini believes he is a risk worth considering.
There’s also the reality that the 31-year-old has found some form – and stability – in Turkey, where he’s been coached by Vincenzo Montella.
Balotelli’s career at the top level looked to be ended after a catastrophic return to his birthplace Brescia and a brief stay with Serie B club Monza.
Mancini has long been a footballing father figure to the attacker, but in 2019, he told the Gazzetta dello Sport, “I adore him but I can’t do anything for him anymore.”
If Balotelli was to salvage the closing years of his career, he needed to get his act together, and early indications were that a surprise transfer to Turkish club Adana Demirsport last July had done nothing to help Super Mario.
He reacted angrily upon being substituted by then-coach Samet Aybaba in just his third game for the Turkish squad, even seeming to hit a teammate, maybe accidently.