Conte ‘keeping an eye’ on Italy outcast Balotelli

The ex-Juventus boss has yet to call upon the 24-year-old since taking charge of the Azzurri but he insists that the door is always open for the forward to return

Italy coach Antonio Conte says he is “keeping an eye” on Mario Balotelli but admits that he will take his time before deciding whether to recall the Liverpool striker.

The former Juventus boss took charge of the Azzurri during the summer, following the departure of Cesare Prandelli on the back of a dismal first-round exit at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Conte has left Balotelli out of his first two squads and the 24-year-old attacker, who has netted just two goals since joining Liverpool from AC Milan in August, appears unlikely to be summoned for this month’s Euro 2016 qualifier against Croatia.

However, Conte insists that the door to the national team is not closed for Balotelli.

“As Italy’s head coach, I’m not excluding anyone,” the 45-year-old told Sky Sport. “Balotelli has started a new career in England and it’s not easy. Let’s give him time to settle into a new league with Liverpool.

“I’m keeping an eye on him, just as I’m doing with all the players who are abroad.”

Conte, though, took great joy out of recalling Juve’s veteran playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who had announced his intention to retire from international football after the World Cup.

“Andrea decided to change his mind when he saw I was taking over,” the ex-Bianconeri boss enthused. “He’s someone you can totally rely on as a person and a player.

“He’s in good shape and I can bank on him to help me to develop players like Marco Verratti, who represents the present and the future of the national team.”

Italy have made a perfect start to their Euro 2016 qualification campaign, winning their opening three games in Group H. The Azzurri next face co-leaders Croatia at San Siro on November 16. 

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