Conte: Pelle deserves Italy place but give Balotelli time at Liverpool

Italy Coach Antonio Conte believes striker Mario Balotelli needs time to settle in at Liverpool after leaving him out of the squad for the next round of Euro 2016 qualifiers, and says Southampton’s Graziano Pelle has earned his call-up, ESPN has reported.

The Azzurri play Azerbaijan and Malta over the upcoming international window but Balotelli has been left at home by Conte, who was appointed following the World Cup, after he resigned his post at Juventus.

Balotelli left Milan for Merseyside over the summer but has yet to hit top form for the Reds, scoring only once in eight appearances, and wasn’t part of the first squad named by Conte either. But Conte insists the former Manchester City forward will come good and isn’t banishing Balotelli from his thoughts.

“He’s started down a new path and let’s give him time to settle into his new surroundings. It’s not an easy one and I believe he must be given the necessary time to adapt at Liverpool,” Conte said. “We’re following him, like we’re following all of our players abroad. My job is to call people up, not to rule people out.”

Southampton’s Pelle has been named in the squad by Conte, however, with the Coach pointing to the ex-Feyenoord striker’s good start in English football as the reason why. “He’s becoming a star in the Premier League and we’re curious to see him close up to be able to evaluate him,” he said. “It’s up to him to show that he deserves his place in the national team.”

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