20 September 2014 12:42
Italy head coach Antonio Conte insists there is room for Mario Balotelli in the squad if the player displays a professional attitude.
The former Juventus boss took over the reins of the national team after Cesare Prandelli departed in the wake of a disappointing World Cup in Brazil, where Italy exited at the group stage.
Conte caused a stir last month when he left Balotelli out of the squad to face Netherlands in a friendly, with the 24-year-old suspended for the subsequent Euro 2016 qualifier against Norway.
Italy won both encounters 2-0 as Conte’s reign got off to an impressive start, and the 45-year-old says there will be a chance for Balotelli to return to the set-up, should he show the right mentality.
“I have no prejudice against Mario,” he told Corriere dello Sport.
“I do not rule anyone out, but I do demand my players act like professionals. If you are not focused, if you wander about thinking only of yourself and basically graze on the pitch, then that’s not good enough for me.
“My choice not to call Balotelli and [Alessio] Cerci was natural in that sense. From here on we’ll see who will play, how they play and what attitudes are like on and off the field.
“With me it’s a constant revolving door policy, so you can come in and you can go out.”
Conte also suggested that Southampton forward Graziano Pelle was in line for a call-up after a promising start to life in the Premier League following a switch from Feyenoord.
“On top of scoring 50 goals in 57 games in Holland, Pelle is now also scoring in England,” he said. “We are watching him, as we are with others.
“I want a squad of 25-30 players based on meritocracy. I am not interested if your name is x or y, as I want 30 people who think ‘we are the Nazionale’.
“If a player is talented, you play him. At Arezzo I used [Andrea] Ranocchia when he was 18, while [Paul] Pogba came from the Manchester United youth side and at Juve we immediately realised what a player he was.”