Italy coach Roberto Mancini has said Mario Balotelli must get in better condition before he can make a return to the national team, after the striker appeared to criticise his omission from the Euro 2020 qualifying squad.
Balotelli has scored five Ligue 1 goals in eight matches since moving to Marseille in January but Mancini overlooked him for Italy’s qualifying wins over Finland and Lichtenstein.
“Have you ever thought that — and it might never happen — but I might be needed again one day, and I will be ready like I always have been over the past three years,” Balotelli wrote in an Instagram story.
“But hearing some of you insulting me, denigrating me and underrating me over the years, could I also get emotionally tired and refuse a call-up? I’m not a robot and I’m not stupid.
“Many times I don’t reply to avoid problems and unnecessary tension, but I feel and see everything and it all builds up and I get tired of it — EVEN ME. Respect me as much as I respect Italy and that would already be a good starting point.
“I’m not demanding to be loved, hugged or considered a phenomenon, but I can guarantee that the only way to get the best out of me is by respecting me, also because I’m not doing anything not to be involved, so I’m asking you this kindly before I demand it.”
Asked his views on Balotelli’s frustration after Italy’s 6-0 win over Liechtenstein, Mancini said: “I’ve not read it yet, but Mario just needs to be relaxed. He needs to work hard and get in condition — he’s already a bit better now.
“Unfortunately, in life, and this applies to all of us, you can’t be everybody’s darling and be liked by everybody. I think it’s quite normal for everybody. He needs to relax and work hard and I think this has got to be his focus in the coming months. Mario’s not a problem for any of us.”
Fabio Quagliarella, 36, made his first Italy start in nine years and his double meant he became the oldest player to score in a competitive game for his country.
“It was a great night — fantastic, with two goals,” Quagliarella told RAI.
“After I got two, my teammates were trying to get me a third. It didn’t come, but I thank them for it. I’d like to thank the fans too for the ovation they gave me when I left the field — that’s something I’ll remember forever.
“It’s been a while since I last played for the national team and to come back and score is really great. I’m 36, but I really don’t feel it. I’m in great physical shape, am serene and training regularly.”