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The Torino striker has received his first Azzurri call-up since November 2010 following the withdrawal of the Inter attacker, who has been sidelined with a hamstring problem


Mario Balotelli has once again been overlooked by Antonio Conte, with the new Italy coach having turned to Fabio Quagliarella to replace the injured Pablo Daniel Osvaldo in his squad for Thursday’s friendly against Netherlands and next week’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Norway.

Balotelli was surprisingly left out of the original 27-man panel when it was announced on Sunday but was in contention for a recall after it emerged that Osvaldo was struggling with a hamstring problem.

However, Conte has instead decided to turn to Torino striker Quagliarella, who was last called up by his country in November 2010.

Conte, of course, knows the 31-year-old well, having worked with the attacker for the duration of his three-year stint in charge of Juventus.

Quagliarella’s call-up represents the second injury-enforced change to the original squad, with versatile Juventus defender Angelo Ogbonna having replaced Parma centre-half Gabriel Paletta, who pulled out with a back problem.

Italy host Netherlands in Bari on Thursday evening before travelling to Oslo to take on Euro 2016 qualification rivals Norway next Tuesday.

The former Rossoneri star believes the striker made the right decision to move on and hopes he can redeem himself at Anfield Road


Former AC Milan striker Andriy Shevchenko believes Mario Balotelli deserves another chance after a difficult spell at the San Siro side and hopes the Italy international can make an impact at Liverpool.

Balotelli made a fine start to life at Milan after joining them from Manchester City in January 2013, but failed to replicate that form in 2013-14 and was sold to Liverpool this summer for €20 million.

“If Balotelli wasn’t happy at Milan and the club were not satisfied either, it was the right decision to part ways,” Shevchenko told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“But I saw Mario in action at the European Championship in Ukraine and Poland two years ago and he was a fantastic player. I refuse to believe that’s all gone all of a sudden.

“Mario deserves another chance and Liverpool are giving him that chance. Liverpool are a great team and could have the ambition to win the Champions League.

“It’s now up to Balotelli to overcome his difficulties and take his fate back in his own hands again.”

The 24-year-old made his Liverpool debut in the 3-0 away win over Tottenham at the weekend, but failed to find the net on his first appearance for the Premier League side.

The Danish centre-back has written an open note of appreciation to the Reds supporters who stood by him during his eight-and-a-half year stay on Merseyside

Daniel Agger has written an open letter to Liverpool supporters after calling time on his eight-and-a-half year career at Anfield.

The Dane has completed a move which sees him return to Brondby, the only other club he has played for besides the Reds, after admitting that his body could no longer deal with the physicality of the English game.

The 29-year-old, who had ‘YNWA’ tatooed on his hand to show his affection for Liverpool, wrote: “Liverpool has been such a big part of my life and my family’s lives for so long that leaving is extremely difficult.

“I’ll start by saying that Liverpool fans constantly keep surprising me. Since the news broke about the transfer, I have received so many positive messages and well-wishing for the future – not just from supporters in Liverpool but across the world.

“My family and I have always felt your backing, it is something unique to this football club, this city and our supporters – it’s been a privilege to have represented this club and I’m forever thankful for everything I have learnt during my time here.

“When I joined this great club, I came here as a 21 year old boy with a lot to learn. Liverpool has helped me grow up and shape me into the man I am today. I’m proud of who I’ve become and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my time at Liverpool.

“I’ve been honoured to live in this close knit city and my experiences as a Liverpudlian are unforgettable. I’d finally like to wish the club all the best for this season. I’ll be supporting you every step of the way, as will millions of others. You’ll Never Walk Alone.”

Agger departs having made 232 appearances and scoring 14 goals for Liverpool, winning the League Cup and Community Shield in the process.

The striker was left out of the coach’s first Italy squad but he insists he is trying to teach the 24-year-old a lesson

Italy coach Antonio Conte insists he was not trying to send a message to Mario Balotelli by omitting the striker from his first squad.

The Liverpool new boy was the most notable absentee from Conte’s selection for forthcoming fixtures against the Netherlands and Norway.

But Conte says he had no motive to leave Balotelli out of his plans, stressing players must earn the right to represent Italy.

“We have been monitoring every match,” he said. “The call-ups are based on those we observed, with those we had footballing evidence on.

“Is it a message? I do not have to send any messages. Those who know me know how I work – I do not present gifts to anyone.

“Today I have here 26 guys and I have told them that they must earn this shirt. I will behave as I have always done, there is no pre-condition for anyone.

“Those who are in the national team should know what it takes to be here and be conscious of the weight of this shirt, its importance.”

Conte, who took over from Cesare Prandelli following the World Cup, also expressed his pride at leading his first training session on Monday.

“This is definitely a special day,” he added. “I entered Coverciano [Italy's national training centre] for the first time with the Under-15s side and to come back now as a coach is beautiful.

“This is a centre that makes me shudder, it takes me back 30 years. It is something nice.

“It is a formative experience, a competition with myself and I am sure that I will be able to communicate my concepts.”

Italy face the Netherlands in a friendly on Thursday before kicking off their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign in Norway five days later.

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