Turin - New
Italy coach Roberto Mancini on Saturday recalled Nice striker Mario
Balotelli to the Azzurri fold for three upcoming friendlies as he begins
the job of reviving Italian fortunes.
Mancini was appointed last Monday, six months after Gian Piero
Ventura was sacked following the four-time world champions' failure to
qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
The 53-year-old, who left Zenit Saint Petersburg to take the job,
unveiled his first 30-man squad for matches against Saudi Arabia, France
and the Netherlands.
Mancini takes charge of his first game against the Saudis in St Gallen, Switzerland on May 28.
As expected, the 27-year-old Balotelli was included for the first time in nearly four years.
Balotelli has scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the Azzurri but
has not played international football since Italy's humiliating
group-stage exit from the 2014 World Cup.
Balotelli was last called up by coach Antonio Conte in November 2014 but did not play because of injury.
He has now been given another chance by Mancini, who coached him at both Inter Milan and Manchester City.
Balotelli has resurrected his career since joining Nice in 2016 after
less successful spells with AC Milan and Liverpool, scoring 26 goals in
all competitions this season, without any of the bad-boy behaviour that
previously dogged his career.
Italy are not spoilt for choice with forwards so Balotelli's success with Nice could not be overlooked by Mancini.
As a youngster, Balotelli was part of the Inter side coached by Jose Mourinho that won the Champions League in 2010.
He also won three Serie A titles with Inter before switching to
Manchester City and helping them claim the Premier League crown in 2012.
Meanwhile, Mancini's squad was without goalkeeping great Gianluigi
Buffon who this week confirmed he would not play again for the national
The presence of Buffon - who holds the record for Italy caps with
176 - proved controversial during friendlies in March with his critics
wanting him to move over for a younger generation.
In his absence, Mancini has recalled Salvatore Sirigu, who has had a
successful season since joining Torino, alongside AC Milan teenager
Gianluigi Donnarumma and Genoa's Mattia Perin.
Among the veterans there was no call-up for Roma captain Daniele De
Rossi, with Juventus defender Giorgio Chiellini absent through injury.
The captain's armband is expected to go to AC Milan centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.
Five players have been given a first call-up - Chelsea left-back
Emerson Palmieri, Torino midfielder Daniele Baselli, Crotone midfielder
Rolando Mandragora, Sassuolo striker Domenico Berardi and Atalanta
defender Mattia Caldara.
Along with defenders Alessio Romagnoli and Daniele Rugani, midfielder
Lorenzo Pellegrini and strikers Federico Chiesa and Federico
Bernardeschi are among the promising youngsters who are expected to put
Italy back on the road to victory.
The squad will meet for the first time at the Italian national team's training camp at Coverciano near Florence on May 23.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Torino);
Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (AC Milan), Mattia Caldara (Atalanta), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St Petersburg/RUS), Danilo D'Ambrosio (Inter Milan), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Emerson Palmieri Dos Santos (Chelsea/ENG), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea/ENG)
Midfielders: Daniele Baselli (Torino), Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Jorginho (Napoli), Rolando Mandragora (Crotone), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma)
Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Nice/FRA), Andrea Belotti (Torino), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Matteo Politano (Sassuolo), Simone Verdi (Bologna), Simone Zaza (Valencia/ESP)