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'Balotelli's earned Italy call-up,' says team-mate

The Nice forward is in line to win his first cap in four years when Mancini takes charge of his first game against Saudi Arabia

Mario Balotelli could be set to win his first Italy cap in four years.
Mario Balotelli could be set to win his first Italy cap in four years.

MARIO BALOTELLI’S RETURN to the Italy squad has been welcomed by Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli.

New Italy coach Roberto Mancini has included Balotelli in his first squad following the striker’s impressive season at Nice.

Balotelli could win his first cap in four years when Italy meet Saudi Arabia on May 28 and Baselli is happy to have the former Manchester City forward in the squad.

Mario’s presence is nice and for me he’s earned his call-up,” Baselli said. “He’s a really nice guy and he keeps the atmosphere light-hearted.”

Meanwhile, Baselli feels that Mancini’s willingness to invest in youth is exactly what Italy need to usher in a new era following their failure to qualify for the World Cup.

Former Inter and Manchester City boss Mancini has freshened up an ageing squad by including the likes of Rolando Mandragora and Mattia Caldara for his first camp at the helm.

Baselli, who finished the season with four Serie A goals, is among the mix of relative newcomers which appears to herald a concerted move toward developing a new generation.

Giorgio Chiellini, Andrea Barzagli and Daniele De Rossi all retired after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup, leaving a group thin on experience to pick up the pieces.

“I’ve seen that the atmosphere is calm here and everyone wants to work,” Baselli told reporters.

“After the failure to qualify for the World Cup, Mancini has the ability and time to prepare for a new cycle and use young players.

He’s one of the best coaches around and certainly the right person to start again with. We have to make the most of this time and put his instructions into practice.

“Personally, I have been waiting for this call-up for a very long time. It’s a great pleasure to be here.”

Mancini’s men are also due to face France and Netherlands in early June as part of a busy schedule of friendlies in the absence of a trip to Russia 2018.

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