MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s new coach Roberto Mancini is putting his trust in Mario Balotelli, saying the maverick forward has matured during his two seasons with Ligue 1 side Nice.
Mancini has been given the daunting task of rebuilding Italy after their failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia and one of his first moves was to recall Balotelli for the first time since the 2014 World Cup.
“It’s been four years since we last met and he’s matured a bit since then,” Mancini, who had a fraught relationship with Balotelli when the pair were at Manchester City, told reporters. “He has kids now and I think that helps.”
“Mario is a special kind of player, he was a great player at a very young age but he has not been able to stay at that level,” Mancini added. “It all depends on him. He’s done well in the last two years, now he needs to do his best and behave well.”
Mancini suggested that he wanted 40-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon to continue playing for Italy.
Buffon has yet to decide on his future after ending his 17-year stint at Juventus but, according to Mancini, intends to carry on at another club.
“He wants to continue playing, and anyone who plays and is at their best can be called to the national team,” he said.
Mancini, whose side meet Saudi Arabia in a friendly in Switzerland on Monday, recognised that Italy no longer boasts the wealth of talent that it used to, but was confident he could make the most of what they have got.
“I’m not a magician and neither is any other coach. We need time, one, two or five games are not enough,” he said.
“There was a period with an incredible abundance of players which is not the case any more. But I think these players, if they have our trust, can become really good and give a lot to the national team.
“Many have not played in European (club) competitions. It will be a more tiring job than in the past, but the national team has always made players better with time.
“Sometimes the victories come when you do not expect them.”
Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Christian Radnedge