Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli says this summer’s World Cup could be the chance of Mario Balotelli’s lifetime.
The divisive forward seems set to lead the Azzurri’s front line at the tournament in Brazil and has a good record in front of goal for the national team.
However, he has attracted fierce criticism from some quarters for some of his performances for Milan this season, as well as a perceived poor attitude on and off the pitch.
Despite this, Prandelli said today that the 23-year-old’s behaviour has always been good when on international duty and stressed the former Manchester City man's value to the team.
“We need to assess a lot of things,” Prandelli said in an exclusvie interview with Sport Mediaset. “Our ability to react, the climate factor and physical tiredness.
“And I will also need to reflect before making some painful decisions. It’s difficult to have to explain to a player why he has been excluded from the squad.
“I will place my trust in the maturity of the boys, in their ability to assess my decisions and to face up to a unique opportunity like the World Cup.
“On Balotelli, I have always said that in the national team he has never behaved outside the rules. He has played important matches, he has a very high goal average and I value him for what he has done and still does in an Azzurri shirt.
“He knows that the World Cup can be the opportunity of a lifetime for a footballer.”
Prandelli also praised the efforts of another of the Azzurri’s hopefuls, Giuseppe Rossi, as he strives to be fit for the tournament.
“Rossi is getting back to his best physical shape, we have waited and waited for him. His dedication and his class are a strong message to all of football. We are all very anxious to see how he will be.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!