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'It took me two days to find him because he has eight or nine phone numbers'

Mario Balotelli’s Italy future ‘in his hands’, says Roberto Mancini.

Mario Balotelli (file pic).
Mario Balotelli (file pic).
Image: Imago/PA Images

ITALY COACH ROBERTO Mancini said on Saturday that Mario Balotelli is not playing at a high enough level to be picked for the national side after snubbing the Marseille striker for upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against Greece and Bosnia.

The Italians travel to Athens to take on Greece on 8 June and before hosting Bosnia in Turin three days later, and Mancini said the 28-year-old could only blame himself for not being selected.

“We’ve known each other for a lifetime,” said Mancini, who coached Balotelli at Inter Milan and Manchester City.

“I called him, even though it took me two days to find him because he has eight or nine phone numbers, and I explained to him that he still needs to improve, the bar needs to be raised,” added the 54-year-old.

“He’s content to play at a low level, when he could be devastating. He could play at the top, score three to four goals per game.”

Balotelli, who scored eight goals in 15 games since joining Marseille from fellow Ligue 1 club Nice in January has not featured on the international stage since September.

“He still does things that he shouldn’t do and got a four-match ban in Ligue 1,” continued Mancini.

“He has 12 months to return to the group. It’s in his hands.”

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Torino striker Andrea Belotti has been rewarded for his club form in the closing months of the season, with eight of his 15 Italian league goals coming since the start of March.

“Belotti did far better in the second half of the season, so he earned this call-up,” said Mancini.

The Azzurri go into the games top of Group J — which also includes Finland, Armenia and Liechtenstein — after two wins from two.

“The next two games are probably the most difficult in the group,” said the Mancini. 

“Greece have improved in the last year, Bosnia have first of all two players that we know well and can be decisive,” he added of Roma’s Edin Dzeko and Juventus’ Miralem Pjanic.

© – AFP, 2019 

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