Conte explains Balotelli call-up

New Italy coach Antonio Conte said he can’t rely on “hearsay” when judging the talents of under-fire striker Mario Balotelli.

Conte surprisingly named Balotelli in his 26-man squad to tackle Croatia in a European Championship qualifier on Sunday, followed by a friendly with Albania two days later.Balotelli has scored just twice in 14 matches for Liverpool since leaving AC Milan in July.Conte, however, wants to take a first-hand look at the 24-year-old after previously overlooking him for international duty.”The simple answer is that Italy, after the disappointment of the World Cup, are trying to build something beautiful that we can bring to our qualification campaign and hopefully a good European Championship,” Conte told reporters on Monday.”It was planned that Balotelli would be called to be evaluated, because you cannot judge [players] on hearsay. Surely it’s right that we assess him closely.

“I prefer to evaluate players because it’s right to test them and see whether they share any technical and tactical similarities with my idea of the game and their attitude.

“He plays as a starter for Liverpool, many other players aren’t even starters. Perhaps it’s for the best that he doesn’t come during good form. He’ll be available for the national team and I’ll be looking at him closely.

“The same goes for Alessio Cerci. They both have assets but are finding it hard abroad, and it’s my duty as a coach to assess what they can give to the national team.

“Excluding players from the outset seems nonsensical to me. Here, all the players are equal, Mario is one of five attackers. If he is good, he will play, otherwise he is on the bench or in the stands,” concluded the former Juventus boss.

– Kick Off

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