Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


Mixed reviews as Balotelli returns to Italy squad

11 November 2014, 14:37

MILAN - Mario Balotelli's return to the Italy fray was met with mixed reviews as the misfiring Liverpool striker prepares to end his enforced exile with a potential appearance against Euro 2016 opponents Croatia next week.

Balotelli has not played for Italy since their first-round exit from the World Cup in Brazil and until his call-up on Sunday was left on the sidelines by new Italy coach Antonio Conte for their first three Group H qualifiers.

The 24-year-old striker is no stranger to controversy, having spent two and a half well-documented years in the English Premier League with Manchester City, where he missed 11 domestic games after taking the club to a tribunal following their decision to fine him two weeks' wages for his poor disciplinary record.

After returning to Italy in January 2013 for an ill-fated 18-month spell with AC Milan, Balotelli signed for Liverpool in the summer but has been pilloried since having failed to spark and, worse, failed to score in the league.

Conte's decision has left more than a few observers scratching their heads in wonder.

"Balotelli was only called up by Italy because of the injury suffered by Lorenzo Insigne," claimed Francesco De Luca, chief editor of Il Mattino newspaper, on the football talk show Il Processo di Lunedi.

Also read: Rodgers plays down Balotelli concerns

Another guest on the show, former Inter player Evaristo Beccalossi, gave an equally unflattering appraisal of Balotelli, who played for the Nerazzurri before his move to City.

"We've always said that Mario's presence should depend on how he is playing, but it's evident that at Liverpool he's not performing well," said Beccalossi.

"He's found it difficult from the start there, but Conte has selected him. In the coach's defence, you have to say the strikers we have are not all top notch."

Whether on or off the field, Balotelli has courted controversy at almost every club he has played.

Reports from England on Tuesday said Balotelli was seen out partying at a London nightclub until 4:30a.m. following Liverpool's 2-1 defeat to Chelsea, a game in which Balotelli was conspicuously under par.

Several weeks ago he was pilloried by fans and the unforgiving British tabloids after he swapped shirts with Real Madrid player Pepe as they walked off at half-time. Liverpool lost 3-0 and Balotelli was replaced at half-time.

While Liverpool manager Brendan Rodgers said he would "deal with the incident internally", former Reds great Jamie Carragher hit out: "I'd be surprised to see him here next season if I'm being honest."

Asked by Rai Sport on Monday for his opinion on Balotelli, former Ajax and Barcelona hero Johan Cruyff said: "It's a problem of education, if he had been educated well he would not be like he is now."

Few commentators got behind Balotelli, although in Tuttomercatoweb.com former Milan and Rangers striker Mark Hateley called for Liverpool fans to show patience.

"Conte was right to call him up because at international level you get the best out of Balotelli," said Hateley.

"Mario is suffering from the fact he is being compared to Luis Suarez and I think that's wrong. Suarez scored a lot of goals and was driving force behind Liverpool and you can't replace guy like that.

"Of course, he (Balotelli) isn't scoring, he's not playing well. But Liverpool are not playing well and it's not easy for Balotelli.

"He's lacking confidence and maybe this call-up will be the spark that gets him going again."

Conte, meanwhile, said he has not taken Balotelli's Liverpool woes into consideration.

"Personally, I don't pay attention to what's being said about his club situation," Conte said Monday when the Italy squad congregated at their Coverciano training base near Florence.

"Today he's here and he has to answer to me. I will judge him by what he does in the next seven to nine days."

Italy sit second in Group H behind Croatia on goal difference after winning their three opening qualifiers. They host the Croats at Milan's San Siro ground on Sunday.

For the latest on national news, politics, sport, entertainment and more follow us on Twitter and like our Facebook page.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...