European Qualifiers: Mario Balotelli just a normal footballer, says Italy coach Antonio Conte
Last Updated: 10/11/14 4:43pm
Italy coach Antonio Conte insists Mario Balotelli should not receive any special treatment.
Conte was speaking after calling up the Liverpool striker for the first time since he replaced Cesare Prandelli as boss in August.
Balotelli has struggled to settle in at Anfield since his summer move from Milan and has yet to score a Premier League goal for the Reds.
However, Conte says he will treat the 24-year-old just like any other player and judge him by his performances with Italy, not Liverpool.
"I'm worried that people see Balotelli differently to the others," said Conte at Italy's training camp near Florence.
We don't need to differentiate Balotelli from the others. He's just one of the 23 players.
“Balotelli is a normal footballer, just like the others, who can also stay on the bench, or in the stands. We don't need to differentiate Balotelli from the others. He's just one of the 23 players.
"Personally, I'm not going to pay attention to talk about the club. People try to exaggerate each situation and I feel sorry for him.
"Today he is here and he has to answer to me. I will judge him by what he does in the next seven to nine days."
Balotelli was heavily criticised for his performances at the World Cup, when Italy went out in the group stage.
"Balotelli has significant experience with the national team, he has played at a World Cup and a European Championship, but that's not enough," said Conte.
"He needs to catch my eye and I have to see if he can adapt to our type of football. If he can, he can play in the starting line-up, but he can also be on the bench or in the stands.
"My duty is to see how I can use them in this national team."
Italy, who have won all four games since Conte took over, host Croatia in a European Qualifier on Sunday.