Sebastian Giovinco may be set for a surprise recall to Italy’s squad, with coach Antonio Conte arguing Mario Balotelli will have to earn selection with “his performances and his behaviour”.
Balotelli signed a loan deal with Milan on Thursday but is unlikely to feature in Conte’s next squad, which will be announced on Saturday, with the 46-year-old coach indicating the former Liverpool striker needs to make an impact on the pitch first.
But it may be a different story for Toronto FC’s Giovinco, who has thrived since moving to MLS in January, scoring 17 goals and notching 12 assists in 24 games.
Conte claimed he will name a similar squad to that he selected in June for a Euro 2016 qualifier against Croatia and a friendly against Portugal, which Giovinco missed out on, but has clearly been impressed by the 28-year-old’s form in the United States.
“There won’t be anything particularly new, as it is right to restart with the players we ended the season with,” Gazzetta World quoted Conte as saying.
“We are keeping tabs on all players, even those that play outside of Italy.
“Giovinco has once again become an important player, and [New York City’s Andrea] Pirlo will continue to be called up as long as he continues to make a difference.
“The same rules apply for Balotelli. The doors to the national team are not closed to anyone.
“It is up to him to earn a place in the team through his performances and his behaviour.
“His return to Italy is a positive for all of us, as players are always coming and going from [national training base] Coverciano based on their performances.”
When Giovinco left Juventus for Toronto, many pundits argued it would signal the end of his international career but having led his new club to fourth in the Eastern Conference standings of MLS, it appears Conte cannot ignore the pint-sized forward’s form.
Balotelli, who only scored one league goal in 16 appearances for Liverpool last term, has seemingly brought his second stint in England to an end – even if he is only on loan at Milan – with the controversial striker at the crossroads in his career.
After a dreadful season at Anfield, Balotelli’s reputation appears irreparable in England but he will be hoping to rediscover his best football with Milan, where he scored 26 goals in 43 Serie A appearances over a season-and-a-half at the San Siro.
Italy face Malta on September 3 and Bulgaria three days later in Euro 2016 qualifying.