The injured Italy captain believes his Milan team-mate can demonstrate his full potential during the World Cup, also backing the Azzurri to reach the semi-finals
Riccardo Montolivo says the World Cup could prove to be a turning point for Mario Balotelli and backed him to fire Italy to the final.
The Azzurri skipper was ruled out of the tournament after breaking his leg in a clash with Republic of Ireland defender Alex Pearce in a 0-0 friendly draw on May 31.
However, despite expressing his disappointment at missing out through injury, Montolivo has backed Italy to enjoy a successful tournament and feels Balotelli could be a talisman for his side.
“Balotelli can express his potential through consistency,” the 29-year-old midfielder told Gazzetta dello Sport.
“It has been hard for him to concentrate only on the pitch. But the World Cup can be a great opportunity for Mario and a turning point in his career. He may prove a lot in this World Cup.
“I believe, however, that we will get to the final or semi-final, as we did in the European Championships.
“Brazil, Spain and Germany are stronger, we are competing with Argentina and the Netherlands and it will be important for us from the opener against England.
“There is the right mix of experienced and young players. The core of the group is from the European Championships and the new faces can bring something extra.”
Montolivo was part of the Italy squad for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa where the Azzurri finished bottom of Group F behind Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand and expressed his frustration at not being able to make amends.
“The injury was a mixture of anger and disappointment,” he continued.
“When I got hurt I understood, I went to the doctor and when I tried to get back up, I heard a crack and saw the World Cup vanish.
“I thought it was bad luck, I’m a fatalist and I have taken it the right way. It is part of the game and of life. You cannot decide, but if you do fall, you have to get back up.
“In that week I got married and missed the greatest opportunity of my career. It was not all easy, but we must accept it. I reviewed the images and when I was on the stretcher I looked lost.
“The difficult moment was in the evening in the hotel when my team-mates and the staff came to console me. I ran off in tears.”
Italy begin their World Cup campaign against England on Saturday.