Mario Balotelli told to 'mature' before making international return

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The Independent Online

Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has been warned he must "mature" before he can return to the Italy team.

Italy Football Federation president Giancarlo Abete sent the message after Balotelli was left out of the Azzurri's Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovenia on Friday for breaching the team's code of conduct while competing for his club.

The 20-year-old, who was shown a red card for a reckless challenge early in City's critical Europa League quarter-final second leg against Dynamo Kiev earlier this month - a tie City went on to lose - is also out of Cesare Prandelli's squad for tomorrow's international friendly against Ukraine in Kiev.

Abete said: "Balotelli still has some problems and lacks continuity.

"He needs to mature and that has to be a personal choice.

"We hope he grows and that the focus is placed on his technical ability.

"He is a great champion of Italian football and will return to be a part of the national team."

Prandelli has not given up on Balotelli.

"He has extraordinary talent but has to be consistent with his performances," Prandelli said. "If that is the case, he will be taken into consideration."

Prandelli believes a lack of affection leads Balotelli to misbehave.

"Everyone is responsible for their own behaviour," Prandelli said.

"Balotelli has to understand that with this type of behaviour, he is only hurting himself.

"We have sent him positives messages.

"I think he is struggling, he is in need of affection, being considered, and perhaps this is his way of expressing this need."

Prandelli admitted he had mulled over the possibility of recalling Balotelli for the game with Ukraine.

"I considered calling him after the game against Slovenia but then I thought it was best not to because this group has responded well," he said.

Prandelli believes Balotelli's talent will be useful for the national team but insists the code of conduct in the Azzurri camp will always prevail.

"I want responsible players in my national team," he said. "The external episodes that surround Balotelli are annoying but this has happened in the past with other players so this is nothing new.

"In certain cases the behaviour off the pitch conditions the judgement of what you do on the pitch.

"It will be his performances on the pitch in the next two months that will make us understand if he is ready to begin an adventure with us.

"He will have to do well with City and make sure people talk about him for what he does on the pitch. Only then will he become an important player for the national team because his talent cannot be questioned."

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