Premier League

Mancini says he wants Balotelli back with Italy on merits

Brescia'a Mario Balotelli, center, walks on the pitch during the Serie A soccer match between Brescia and Torino at the Mario Rigamonti Stadium in Brescia, Italy, Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019. (Filippo Venezia/ANSA via AP)

FLORENCE, Italy (AP) Italy coach Roberto Mancini says he prefers to recall Mario Balotelli for his qualities as a player, not as a message against racism.

Balotelli has not been called up by Mancini in more than a year but Italian soccer federation president Gabriele Gravina has said naming him in the squad would send a strong message after the Brescia forward was racially abused recently.

Mancini said Monday that "if Balotelli gets another chance, it will be because he deserves it from a technical point of view."

Balotelli was included in Mancini's first two squads but again was omitted from upcoming European qualifiers against Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia.

Balotelli has long said his goal is to rejoin the national team for next year's European Championship.

The 29-year-old striker has scored two goals in seven matches this season.

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Updated November 11, 2019

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