Italian head coach Antonio Conte has bemoaned Mario Balotelli’s lack of playing time at Liverpool but insists an international return is still possible.
The 24-year-old has not played for Italy since Conte took over after last summer’s disappointing World Cup campaign, with the controversial Liverpool striker left out of the squad for last night’s friendly draw with England in Turin.
Since making the £16 million switch to Anfield from AC Milan in August, the Italian has made 25 appearances in all competitions, scoring four goals – including the winning goal in the 3-2 Premier League victory over Tottenham in February.
Balotelli was also on target in Liverpool’s first leg Europa League victory over Turkish side Besiktas – a tie that the Reds eventually lost.
Despite just three league appearances since the turn of the year, Conte remains upbeat and has ensured that the former Manchester City striker will be recalled to the national side if his club form was to improve.
“I am keeping an eye on everything the (Premier) League offers,” he said. “I went to see Southampton play Liverpool and only (Graziano) Pelle played, as Balotelli and Fabio Borini were on the bench," Conte said.
With a place in the Premier League top four still well within reach and an FA Cup Quarter-final reply also to look forward too, Liverpool fans will be hoping that Balotelli can rekindle the sort of form which prompted the Reds to swoop for the forward.
Conte is hopeful the Italian can begin to establish himself in the Liverpool starting line-up before returning for the national side.
“The doors are open to everyone who shows during their displays that they know what the Italy jersey represents. I hope Balotelli can give Liverpool significant support and play more often.
“If this should happen, the doors are open for the national team. We need these players to send us important messages and we will be ready to receive them.”