Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has told Mario Balotelli that he now needs to turn potential into reality.
The Manchester City man is an enigmatic striker who has sometimes struggled to deliver on the big stage, while his comportment on and off the pitch has been questioned.
But after impressing at Euro 2012, Prandelli now wants the former Inter forward to become one of his side’s leaders.
“The time has arrived for Balotelli to demonstrate that he has become a mature footballer,” the tactician told RAI ahead of tonight’s game against France.
“I often joke with Mario that perhaps I’m the only person who can manage him, but maybe because we don’t spend that much time together.”
Balotelli will start in a trident alongside Antonio Candreva and Milan sensation Stephan El Shaarawy this evening.
“Mario and Stephan are a cocktail of power and fantasy, they have different qualities which can be integrated.
“They are an attacking force that could be very interesting in terms of the future.”
Prandelli will also experiment in midfield given that Paris Saint-Germain youngster Verratti, just 20, will replace Andrea Pirlo.
“I hope Verratti can replace Pirlo, but only in the very distant future…
“It is hard to leave Verratti out because he has great technique and personality. With time, I could find a role for him in the midfield.
“After all, he has played as a Trequartista in the past.”