Italy coach Antonio Conte has dampened Mario Balotelli’s hopes of playing in Euro 2016 by suggesting the AC Milan striker may have to watch the tournament on television.
Balotelli has not played for his country since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Italy crashed out in the group stages after losing 1-0 to Costa Rica and Uruguay.
But after Italy were drawn alongside Belgium, Ireland and Sweden for the tournament, Balotelli posted a message on his Instagram page saying he “can’t wait” for Euro 2016 to begin.
“He can’t wait for what? To watch us on TV or to play in the Euros?” Conte said.
“It’s up to him, just as all the others, to prove himself.”
Balotelli, 25, has played just four times for Milan this season and has only scored one goal, with a groin injury having kept the on-loan Liverpool striker out of action since September, although he has returned to training.
Conte added: “He has to prove a lot. Really a lot. I have not closed the door on anyone.
“There are five months to the tournament and things could change. However, things have to change in a clear and substantial manner.”
Conte has named Balotelli in only one international squad since becoming Italy coach in 2014.
Balotelli, who scored twice in Italy’s 2-1 semi-final win against Germany at Euro 2012, pulled out due to injury.
Conte said: “The players who took us to Euro 2016 qualification have the advantage and someone really has to impress to break into that group.”