Conte: Balotelli will have to earn Italy recall

The enigmatic striker has been told that he must change his behaviour if he is to be welcomed back into the Azzurri set-up

Antonio Conte says that Mario Balotelli must earn a recall to the Italy squad by improving on and off the pitch.

Balotelli has been summoned just once since Conte succeeded Cesare Prandelli as Azzurri coach following World Cup 2014, with the striker having endured a dismal first season with Liverpool following last summer’s £16 million move from AC Milan.

The 25-year-old was made a scapegoat for Italy’s shock first-round exit in Brazil, with the forward having been accused of being a divisive influence in the dressing room.

But Balotelli is now hoping to revive both his club and international career after securing a loan move back to Milan earlier this week.

“Balotelli in an Italy shirt again? The doors to the national team are not closed to anyone,” former Juventus coach Conte told reporters on Friday.

“You have to deserve to be in this group, though, through performances, behaviour and moral considerations, which are very important to us.

“It’s up to Mario to earn any possible return.”

Meanwhile, Conte says Andrea Pirlo will remain a key player for the Azzurri even though the playmaker left Juventus for MLS outfit New York City during the summer.

He also confirmed Sebastian Giovinco could also be recalled given his sensational form at Toronto FC, where he has scored 17 goals in 24 MLS games so far this season.

“Giovinco is doing very well in Canada,” the 46-year-old said of his former Juve charge. “He’s returning the level we knew before and he can be important for the national team.

“And Pirlo will be there. I think that he’s still an important player for us and as long as he’s still directing and making a difference for us on the pitch, he will be with us.”

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