Raiola fumes at Italy over Balotelli omission

Mario Balotelli’s omission from the Italy squad for their upcoming friendlies has outraged the striker’s agent, Mino Raiola.

The Nice forward has not been selected for the Azzurri since 2014, but rumours suggested he was being considered for matches against Argentina and England after an impressive run of form.

Balotelli has scored 22 goals in 31 appearances for Nice this season, but has been overlooked after uncapped duo Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa were selected.

Caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio has vowed to keep tabs on Balotelli’s performances ahead of further friendlies against Saudi Arabia, France and Ukraine at the end of the season, but that was not enough for the unsurprisingly outspoken Raiola.

“We’re disappointed with the failure to call-up Balotelli,” he told Radio 24.

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“We’re even more disappointed with the explanation we received, publicly because we haven’t spoken to anyone.

“If Di Biagio says that numbers don’t count for a striker then the national team is closed for players like him.

“The problem isn’t the coach – it’s the football system. We have a federation that works without a plan, an idea for the future.

“The national team should be represented by the best, so if the best don’t go then we don’t understand the criteria.

Mario Balotelli Italy Euro 2012

“In other nations, when the national team plays, it’s a party but for us it’s a reason to fight. There’s no plan or identity, all we do is change the manager.

“I would restart from the German system. We have a system similar to the English one, where the coach works as a manager, but Di Biagio isn’t the right person for that.

“When things go well it’s thanks to everyone, but when they go badly the coach takes the blame alone, even if he doesn’t have any problems.

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“To have Balotelli in the national team you need a person with a strong character to manage him. [Gianpiero] Ventura wasn’t that, in fact he was in total confusion and Di Biagio is showing the same thing.

“The striker is just a player who scores, and if the dressing room doesn’t want him then who is saying that? Do they have names and surnames? Do they control the dressing room or does the coach?”

Italy are going through a transitional phase following their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia this summer and have been drawn against Poland and Portugal in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.


Di Biagio to monitor Balotelli form after Italy omission

Italy interim boss Luigi Di Biagio insists he will continue to monitor the form of Mario Balotelli, having omitted him from his squad to face Argentina and England.

Balotelli had been tipped for a recall, having scored 14 goals in 21 Ligue 1 games for Nice this season.

However, the 27-year-old has missed out on a call-up, with uncapped duo Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa called up instead.

Explaining Balotelli’s omission, Di Biagio said: “I’ll keep following him and we’ll see what happens in the next few months.

“Scoring goals is very important for forwards but this must be complemented by their performances. I made my evaluations and took a decision for the good of the team.”

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With Italy desperate to start rebuilding their image after their failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Di Biagio hopes Cutrone and Chiesa can show their class at the senior level of international football.

“With a bit of patience, we can rebuild an important team. There are lots of young players and they’re developing,” he added

“I called up Cutrone because of his performances, his enthusiasm and for the fact that he’s moved through all the youth teams, starting from Under-15 level, and he knows exactly what I ask of him. Then, there are his goals, which never hurt.

“Chiesa is ready to be here permanently but this will depend on what happens in the league and it will depend above all on what he shows in training and in matches.”

He continued: “The first aim is to play well and impose our style of play. If you play well, then, in 10 matches, you’ll end up winning eight of them.

“For me, playing well means having the courage to get into the other team’s half regardless of the quality of the team that you’re taking on. It means sending the full-backs up to attack, pressing the opponents high and not being afraid to take on the best players.

“This is a cohesive group made up of players that I’ve seen develop. We need to start again with the right conviction straight away. We’re not at the level of the world’s strongest national teams, but neither are we among the worst.”

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Veteran goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon is also back in the squad, having reversed his decision to retire from international football, and Di Biagio hopes to lean on his experience.

“Gigi is here for his presence but he’s also here to play, help me and bring extra value on and off the pitch,” he said.


Neymar’s dreadlocks and Balotelli’s lament – Ligue 1 goes social

Neymar might be out of action, but it seems impossible to keep the Brazil star out of the news.

After suffering a broken foot against Marseille last month – an injury that threatens to keep him out for the rest of the Ligue 1 season – the striker has been forced to amuse himself away from the field.

This week, he has taken the opportunity to experiment with new hairstyles.

The superstar has gone for something rather outlandish, allowing his friends to talk him into road testing some dreadlocks.



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On the training ground, meanwhile, Adrien Rabiot joked about rumours that the PSG dressing room has been divided.

“A member of the ‘Brazilian clan’ having a joke with the ‘French clan’!? Look out Marquinhos, you better not do this again!! Love you boys,” he joked.


Un membre du clan « brésilien » a été pris en train de rigoler avec le clan « français » !? Attention @marquinhosm5 que ça ne se reproduise plus…!! Love you boys @kimpembe3 @draxlerofficial @marquinhosm5 #famillePSG

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When they got onto the field, PSG were pushed in a thrilling match against Nice, which they won 2-1 thanks to a late header from Dani Alves, leaving them just three wins short of sealing the title.

“One more big step towards our goal,” the defender said. “Only the champions will be remembered and for one reason only: they know that the way is difficult but it will be worth it in the end. Never stop fighting for what you want in your lives.”

One man who was not left content was Mario Balotelli, who was on the losing side despite a fine performance from Nice, who showed the kind of form that drove them to the Champions League qualifiers this season.

He told his Instagram followers: “If we would have played like today every game we would be first in the Ligue at this point! Well played guys.

“Marcoli, always nice to see you!!! Good luck for the friendly matches in the national team. You are too strong.”


If we would have played like today every game we would be first in the Ligue at this point ! Bravo les gars. Marcolì sempre bello vederti !!! in bocca al lupo per le partite amichevoli in nazionale tvb sei troppo forte!

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Balotelli is expected to leave Nice in the summer but has enjoyed his time on the south coast to date.



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“Happiness is the key,” he posted in a simple message earlier in the week.

Ligue 1 finished on Sunday with a thrilling encounter between Marseille and Lyon, which swung one way then the other. Kostas Mitrogolou seemed to have pinched a goal that would have sealed a point but Memphis Depay reopened the Champions League race with a late winner to give OL a 3-1 win.

It had several big-name players gripped, including the injured Lyon star Nabil Fekir and ex-Marseille full-back Benjamin Mendy, who is now with Manchester City.


After a series of thrilling games, Ligue 1 takes a week off for the international break, with PSG and Monaco preparing for the Coupe de la Ligue final in a fortnight’s time.


‘It’s likely that Mario will leave’ – Nice reveal Balotelli departure plans

Nice expect Mario Balotelli to leave the club when the striker’s contract expires at the end of the season.

Balotelli has scored 22 goals in all competitions this season, 14 of which have come in Ligue 1, but Nice are eighth and unlikely to qualify for Europe.

The 27-year-old’s agent Mino Raiola has suggested Serie A title contenders Napoli would be “ideal” for his client, but leaders Juventus have confirmed they are not interested in Balotelli.

Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere and coach Lucien Favre have both confirmed Balotelli is not expected to agree a contract renewal to spend a third season at the club.

“It’s more likely than not that Mario will leave,” Favre told Canal+ after Ligue 1 leaders Paris Saint-Germain beat his side 2-1 on Sunday.

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Before the game Rivere also indicated the club has accepted Balotelli will be moving on at the conclusion of the campaign.

“It is likely that Mario may be leaving to see other horizons,” Rivere said before the match.

“We’ll see what happens in the transfer window.”

Balotelli, meanwhile, believes he has matured at Nice and can further improve in the years to come.

However, he remains focused on continuing to progress and helping the club to a strong finish to the Ligue 1 campaign.

“This is one of the best seasons of my career, but I can do a lot more,” Balotelli told Telefoot ahead of Sunday’s game against PSG

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“When you grow up and you get more mature, it’s easier to just focus on football. This is the most important thing I’ve learned here.

“For us, the goal is to at least qualify for the Europa League. That is most the most important goal for us.”

Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco has suggested he would be interested in having Balotelli at the Stadio Olimpico, with a Serie A return looking the striker’s most likely move.


Balotelli trolls PSG: They’re just like Guingamp

Mario Balotelli has taken a swing at Paris Saint-Germain, claiming that he sees them as just another Ligue 1 side.

The striker, who was overlooked for the most recent Italy squad, has been in excellent form for Nice this season and will face off against PSG on Sunday.

It is a match that Balotelli does not seem to be attributing any particular importance to, suggesting that the capital side, who are 14 points clear of Monaco at the top of the standings, see themselves apart from their domestic rivals.

“Paris are like Guingamp, they’re a Ligue 1 team,” he told Canal+’s ‘Telefoot’ program. “I don’t care if it’s PSG. It doesn’t make any difference. 

“This season I have never watched PSG, only the last game against Real Madrid. They deserved to lose.”

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Over the course of the last year, the capital side have made headlines with their lavish spending, notably splashing a world-record sum of €222 million on Neymar, but Balotelli says there’s more to football than collecting stars.

“Money allows you to buy big players, but not a team,” the 27-year-old said, referring to PSG’s exit at the hands of Madrid at the last-16 stage of the Champions League.

Meanwhile, after scoring 22 goals in 30 outings this term, the striker is pleased with what he has accomplished.

“I think this has been one of the best seasons of my career,” he said. “But I can do a lot more. I hope the best is yet to come.” 

The former Manchester City striker, who is out of contract at the end of the season, is unlikely to remain at Nice into next term.

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“It’s likely that Mario will go to explore other horizons,” Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere explained to the same show, while scotching rumours that Hatem Ben Arfa might return to the club after 18 months in the wilderness with PSG.

“I don’t think it’s possible. Hatem had a great story with us, and our fans still love Ben Arfa. We tried to sign him at the end of the last transfer market. It didn’t happen and I understand his reasons.”

Nice are eighth in Ligue 1 but are fighting for a European spot, having reached the last 32 of the Europa League this season.