Antonio Conte denies sending Mario Balotelli a ‘message’ in dropping him, but states that Italy’s players must earn their place in the squad.
The new Liverpool signing was the notable absentee from the CT’s first Azzurri squad, for games coming up against the Netherlands and Norway.
For the 45-year-old, though, the omission is not part of any strategy against Balotelli, or in favour of anyone else.
“We have been monitoring every match. The call-ups are based on those we observed, with those we had footballing evidence on,” Conte has told reporters today.
“Is it a message? I do not have to send any messages. Those who know me know how I work - I do not present gifts to anyone.
“Today I have here 26 guys and I have told them that they must earn this shirt. I will behave as I have always done, there is no precondition for anyone.
“Those who are in the national team should know what it takes to be here and be conscious of the weight of this shirt, its importance.”
Conte was asked about his front-line selections.
“I have summoned attackers with certain characteristics, with a predisposition to my style of play.
“At the World Cup only the one striker played, whilst with me I play with two strikers. With Cerci we had no footballing evidence, whilst Insigne is a winger.
“They say I have not called up regulars, with the exception of Zaza. But if we look at the teams, the regulars are foreigners.
“To see teams with only foreigners is alarming. We need to give space to Italians. On the reforms, there are people involved, they have assured me that they will try to help.
“Also at youth level it is not easy, even the Primavera teams are crammed with foreigners. We must roll up our sleeves.”
On that note, the former Juve boss was on the same wavelength as his President, Carlo Tavecchio.
“I happened to catch some live games and unfortunately certain teams did not have an Italian in the field, or just one or two. This certainly does not help my considerations.
“It is right to make reflections and that there should be major reforms to provide more space to Italian players, to ensure that the national team is the driving force for Italian football.”
Conte had spent the previous fortnight visiting a number of Serie A clubs’ training grounds and talking with Coaches.
“The fact that we have this closeness with the clubs is positive. Having Coaches available to me, nothing is hidden, they tell me the truth, and that is essential.
“Because I can better monitor the players. Having a good relationship witht eh Coach and the clubs gives me great pleasure, it has made me realised that there is a desire to co-operate.
“I’d like to have a lot of players that are starters with their clubs and I hope that the national team can be a stimulus.”
This is Conte’s first day working with the Italy squad at Coverciano.
“This is definitely a special day. I entered Coverciano for the first time with the Under-15s side and to come back now as a Coach is beautiful. This is a centre that makes me shudder, it takes me back 30 years. It is something nice.
“The differences to club management? It is a new experience. I am very attracted to seeing how I can a short space of time, with respect to the time I was able to have with a club, transmit my idea of the game to this team.
“It is a formative experience, a competition with myself and I am sure that I will be able to communicate my concepts.”