Juventus and Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci has tipped in-form OGC Nice striker Mario Balotelli to earn a recall to the national set-up, he told a news conference.
Controversial striker Balotelli has been left in the cold by Italy for the past two years, after the nation’s disappointing World Cup in 2014, and struggled to find his feet with Liverpool and AC Milan in recent years before a free transfer to Ligue 1 side Nice this summer.
Since then, Balotelli has struck six goals in five games but, when questioned about the latest overlooking for the national squad, the former Manchester City striker stated the right decision had been made- and Bonucci believes that shows the striker’s growing maturity.
“It’s always been said that the doors to the national team are open to everybody and that’s a fact,”
“To me it seems that what he said yesterday was correct and it made me think he’s reasoning like an adult when he said he doesn’t deserve to come back yet because he wants to get back to his very best.”
“These words show great maturity and that, at the end of the day, Balotelli really is humble and that he needs to show this on the field, first with his club and then maybe with the national team. Then he will give us added value.”
Bonucci previously criticised the striker in the build-up to Euro 2016 but his perceptions have since changed, with the defender adding he has always backed his compatriot to succeed and improve.
“Those Balotelli-esque [incidents] don’t do any good to him or to anybody. That’s the advice I would give because his quality is infinite and he just lacked the awareness that being sacrificial, humble and available, he could have got back to the top and into the national team, where he could be an important pillar of this group.”
“I hope for him that he returns. I’ve always been the first to stand by him, to encourage him and calm him down, and to keep his mouth closed too because I liked and I still like him.”
“If he realises how he needs to behave then he can be important to this group. It’s all in his hands, as always. I just hope this experience [at Nice] gives him responsibility and improves him.”
Balotelli, now 26, has earned 33 caps previously for Italy and his goal tally currently stands at 13 for his national side.