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Costacurta hails Balotelli return, Mancini vows Italy ‘rebirth’

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Mario Balotelli has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup but has been playing well for Nice © AFP/File / VALERY HACHE

MILAN, Italy, May 20Top Italian FA official Alessandro Costacurta on Sunday welcomed Roberto Mancini’s decision to recall Nice striker Mario Balotelli as the new Italy coach promised a “rebirth” of the national side.

Balotelli, who has not played since Italy’s humiliating group-stage exit from the 2014 World Cup, has been recalled by Mancini for three upcoming friendlies.

And Costacurta said Balotelli’s form at Nice had warranted him being given another a chance.

“Becoming a parent does change you and nobody can attest that more than Mancini,” said the former AC Milan defender and current federation deputy commissioner.

“I think Balotelli’s performances on the field were worthy of a call-up.”

Balotelli — who Mancini coached at both Inter Milan and Manchester City — has scored 13 goals in 33 appearances for the Azzurri but had been overlooked due to behavioural issues.

Mancini took over last Monday, six months after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, and takes charge of his first game against Saudi Arabia in St Gallen, Switzerland on May 28.

“Usually big disappointments can lead to great triumphs,” said Mancini.

“In difficult moments that is when Italy found their pride and these players must take us back to the top of the world, where we deserve to be.

“I want this to be the Italy of rebirth.”

Mancini and Costacurta were speaking on the sidelines of the Kick-Off 2018 event organised by the Italian FA at Coverciano, near Florence.

“I think Italy are still a football superpower, as we have 50 million coaches,” joked Mancini about Italy’s passionate fans.

“I’m always very positive in general, even if people say Italy no longer has as much talent.

“We had perhaps too much talent all together when we won the World Cup, but now we just need to give them time to grow and develop, keep the faith towards a good future.

“Our football philosophy helped us win four World Cups and lose three finals.

“Perhaps we’ve done better than Brazil all things considered, as we played more finals, even if we could never play as well as them, or like Spain in recent years.”

Meanwhile, Costacurta said he hoped goalkeeping great Gianluigi Buffon — the holder of a record 176 caps — would have a change of heart and play one final friendly.

“I’m sorry that Buffon does not want to do a goodbye with the national team like he did with Juventus, it would have been nice if all of Italy could have thanked him for what he has done over the years.

“At this stage, I don’t think he’s going to change his mind, even though it doesn’t hurt to make a call or a text.”

The Italians will play further friendlies against France in Nice on June 1 and the Netherlands, who also failed to reach the World Cup, three days later in Turin.

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