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Conte unsure over Balotelli future

Antonio Conte is unsure if Mario Balotelli will represent Italy again, but said the Milan striker’s fate was in his own hands.

Balotelli, who is on a season-long loan at Milan from Liverpool, last played for his country at the 2014 World Cup.

Uncertainty surrounds his future, with suggestions his return to the Serie A could be his last chance to kick-start his career.

Asked if he could see Balotelli playing with Italy again, Conte said: “Honestly, I don’t know.

“It’s up to him.”

One man whose international career is set to continue for the foreseeable future is Andrea Pirlo, the 36-year-old set to start in Italy’s midfield despite his move to New York City.

Italy take on Malta and Bulgaria in Euro 2016 qualifiers on Thursday and Sunday respectively.

“Andrea is a footballer that, until he [doesn’t] have the enthusiasm and will to come here and put a shift in, but also the will to be an example for the others, he will always be welcome,” Conte said.

Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Marco Verratti is likely to be alongside Pirlo in midfield and Conte has been impressed by the 22-year-old’s development.

“I think that Verratti is growing a lot as a footballer because he is becoming time and again more complete in his performances,” he said.

“He can do well both phases, when in possession and when not in possession. He normally starts with ball recoveries and then he is able to give some intensity to his team because that’s what he does. I think that he is completing this growth process.

“Obviously playing with PSG at top levels really helps him.”

Wed 2 Sep, 2015
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