One of the senior yet controversial Italian frontman, Mario Balotelli is named in Gli Azzzuri's latest squad for World Cup playoffs next March.
Ballotelli was last called up by Roberto Mancini's team back in September 2018 when Italy was up against Poland in the first game of UEFA Nations League 2021. The former Manchester City man has scored 14 goals in the international fixtures and earned 36 caps.
He was apart of the national squad in EURO 2012, which he thrived with three goals, including a brace at the semifinal against Germany plus helped Italy reach the final before being trashed 4-0 by Spain, and World Cup 2014. Unfortunately, his stellar form at the group stage opener against England where he bagged the opening winning goal, did not continue in the following matches. Balotelli was criticised for being the worse version of himself, the lazy and wasteful forward on the pitch.
Roberto Mancini has been his mentor since his days in Inter Milan back in late 2000s. He was also the man behind Manchester City's intention of signing him. He proves to be a deadly striker in his best. What Ballotelli needs is simply a trust for him to be the main man in front, despite not always being in the line, plus a nurturing manager. Apart from Mancini, Cesare Prandelli and the former Dortmund boss, Lucien Favre plus Rudi Garcia, were the figure who unleash his potentials. Ballotelli's best form beside the ones in Manchester City, Inter and AC Milan was in OGC Nice within 2016 and 2019. The Italian goalgetter netted 43 goals and made three assists in 76 appearances. This season, the 31-year old forward is playing for Adana Demirspor of Turkey registering nine goals and five assists in 19 matches. He has been involved in bumping up his club to topple Galatasaray, Besiktas and Fenerbahce by sitting on the fourth in the standing.
However, his proximity with Mancini does not necessarily guarantee him a place in the line up. The former Manchester City boss also calls up Cagliari man Joao Pedro. The Brasilian born frontman has just received his Italian citizenship and been ready to help Gli Azzurri qualify to the final round. The 29-year old striker has notched up ten goals and four assists in Italian Serie A. It would be interesting to see who shall get a nod to inspire the team in front as Andrea Belotti and Federico Chiesa who are injured and will have to be sidelined for a while. Should Ballotelli be able to take this chance to be the key man in the playoffs later, he could revive his international career one last time.
Italy will be facing off North Macedonia at the semifinal playoff on March, 24 and taking on either Portugal or Turkey in the final on the 29th. Here are the 35-man provisional squad of Italy.
Goalkeepers: Marco Carnesecchi (Cremonese), Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa);
Defenders: Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Davide Calabria (Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Milan), Luiz Felipe (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Luca Pellegrini (Juventus), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta);
Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Nicolo Fagioli (Cremonese), Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Samuele Ricci (Empoli), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Sandro Tonali (Milan);
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Adana Demirspor), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Joao Pedro (Cagliari), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo), Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma).