Mario Balotelli blamed Giampiero Ventura for Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup. “He looked for excuses not to call me. If you don’t beat Sweden...”
The Nice striker sat down for an exclusive interview with Sky Sport Italia, you can read the rest of his comments here.
“I did see him in Nice, as he came to see me and said I was being kept in consideration. However, his squad was already made and he was not interested so much in how I played but rather how I would guide the team. He felt that to be involved, I had to be a positive example, someone for the others to look to.
“He asked me: ‘Why didn’t you do well at Liverpool?’ I told him that was in the past. If he wanted to know who I was, then talk to my Coach.
“If there are tactical decisions why I am not called up for international duty, I can understand that, but if you tell me it’s because I have to be a leader, then I’m less understanding.
“At the end of the day, it seemed like Ventura was looking for excuses not to call me up. In all honesty, if you ask me why I wasn’t called for international duty, I don’t have an answer. I don’t know, he must’ve had his ideas.
“I think more than being a leader of the team, it would’ve been more important to score a goal against Sweden in the play-offs and qualify for the World Cup.”
The Azzurri lost 1-0 in Sweden and were held 0-0 at San Siro in the second leg, which famously saw Daniele De Rossi on the touchline urging Ventura’s staff to introduce Lorenzo Insigne.
“It made me angry to see players giving their heart and soul on the pitch, but it was obvious there were tactical problems that went behind the quality of the team. They might not be phenomenons, but Italy have very strong players.
“If you don’t beat Sweden over two legs, it means something is badly wrong. It wasn’t about the players, they were lacking something else.”
There were also multiple reports that the ‘Senators’ of the Italy squad had barred Ventura from bringing in Balotelli.
“I spoke to Gigi Buffon, I called him up and asked for his ideas. From what he told me, I don’t think there was anyone against me in the Azzurri group. I’ve heard this said many times, but Gigi is an honest, direct person and if there was truth to it, he would’ve told me.”
Balotelli was born and raised in Italy, adopted by a family in Brescia when only two years old, but because of red tape issues he had to wait until the age of 18 to play for the Azzurri as an Italian citizen.
“I am proud to be Italian, just as I am proud to be Ghanaian and to be black. I am and always will be proud to play for Italy. I know how much my father cared about that and think I had the best performances of my career playing for Italy.
“I always hope for a recall and to do more great things with the Azzurri.”