International Players

Mario Balotelli returns to the Italian national team: The Azzurri lack of quality strikers?

Super Mario' to wear the Azzurri jersey again after three and a half years of absence.

Super Mario is back and will be looking to earn a place in the final call-up.
Super Mario is back and will be looking to earn a place in the final call-up.

Mario Balotelli was called up this Monday by Roberto Mancini to work this week at the Coverciano coach's center in Florence and got a new opportunity to wear the Azzurri jersey, to which he returns after three and a half years of absence. 

Two and a half months after the matches against Switzerland and Northern Ireland, the Italian national team opens its 2022 from Wednesday 26 to Friday 28 January for a brief analysis in view of the World Cup qualification play-offs scheduled for the end of March.

Considered one of the brightest talents in Italian soccer, star of the Inter youth academy and champion of all in 2010 in the team then coached by José Mourinho, Balotelli, 31, disappeared from elite soccer in recent seasons, but the good performance showed this season in Turkey allowed him to get a new opportunity.

The Azzurri lack of quality strikers?

Ciro Immobile's lack of goals in decisive moments and injuries to Federico Chiesa and Andrea Belotti convinced Mancini to call up Balotelli, to see how he reacts and decide whether he can count on him for next March's play-offs. 

Ciro Immobile, as he was keen to point out once again earlier this month, scored two goals at the Euros and, as a former European Golden Shoe winner, his goalscoring record should be respected.

However, even at Euro 2020, Immobile again looked nothing like a world-class striker in the mold of Robert Lewandowski or Karim Benzema.

Mancini always trusted him 

Mancini, the coach who debuted him at the age of 17 at Inter, had already bet on him at the beginning of his time in charge of the national team, although 'Super Mario' wasted this chance by arriving completely out of form, so his last appearance in the Azzurri jersey dates back to September 2018. 

From then on, Italy had a notorious growth that culminated in winning the European Championship last July, but Mancini's machine stalled in the following months, to the point of seriously jeopardizing the participation in the World Cup. 

The Azzurri finished second in the Group Stage, losing the direct clashes with Switzerland due to two penalties missed by Jorginho, and will play for the ticket to the World Cup in a very tough Playoff, which predicts a Semifinal with North Macedonia and a possible Final with Portugal in Lisbon.

Balotelli has scored 8 goals in Turkey

Balotelli arrives after scoring eight goals in the Turkish league with Adana Demirspor, coached by former Sevilla player Vincenzo Montella; showing a positive performance after the last very negative campaigns experienced in Italy. 

The Italian striker arrived in Turkey after wasting two opportunities to lift in Italy, first with his hometown club, Brescia, in Serie A, and then in Serie B, with Italian politician and businessman Silvio Berlusconi's Monza.

He scored just five goals in the 2019-2020 season and five in the 2020-2021 campaign, numbers that certified the involution of a player of enormous potential, limited by his character. Even though his career started in an amazing way, with the treble, Serie A, Champions League, and Coppa Italia, won with Inter and a millionaire move to Manchester City, again with Mancini on the bench. 

Off-field issues

Bad taste jokes to his teammates and a lifestyle not compatible with professional sport caused a slump that saw him gradually move away from the media spotlight. At first, he stayed with the elite clubs, such as Liverpool and Milan, the last great team where he showed his class, before moving on to less ambitious clubs like Nice and Marseille. 

Hugo Alberto Walls Gómez

SEO Journalist. Bachelor's Degree in Communication and Media Production. Two years working in digital media and editorial assignments. Currently working for Futbolero US and collaborating with INDeportes and Goleadoras MX, following Liga MX, MLS, and the Premier League. Passionate about sports and soccer.+ info

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