Mario Balotelli’s goals in Turkey for Adana Demirspor have earned him a return to the Italian national team after a three-year absence. It’s Balotelli’s second Azzurri call in almost eight years.

Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli returns to the Italian national team after a four-year absence. (Image; Twitter/433)

The 31-year-old is part of Roberto Mancini’s plans for Italy’s training camp this January. The Euro 2020 champions are preparing for the crucial World Cup playoffs in March with a two-day meet-up between Jan. 26 and 28.

Balotelli earned 36 calls to the national team starting in 2010, scoring 14 goals.

At the club level, the former Manchester City, Inter, and AC Milan star last played in his home country for second-tier Monza last season. In July, he penned a contract with newly-promoted Turkish Super Lig club Adana Demirspor, netting nine times in 21 games since the start of the campaign.

Balotelli hasn’t been called by Italy since May 2018. He previously wore the national team shirt at the 2014 World Cup.

Italy’s coach, Roberto Mancini, who also worked with Balotelli at the club level, took the opportunity given by the extra international break to gather a 35-man squad. The brief training camp will prepare the Italian national side for the World Cup playoffs in March.

Italy needs to get past Ronaldo

Italy, who are the Euro 2020 champions, will need to get past North Macedonia, then play the winner between Portugal and Turkey for a ticket at the World Cup in Qatar. The Italians finished second in their World Cup qualifying group, behind Switzerland.

Before the crucial games at the end of March, Mancini handed first-time calls to Brazilian-born duo Luiz Felipe (Lazio) and Joao Pedro (Cagliari). Both have represented their native country at the youth level and will be part of Italy’s set-up for the two-day team-building camp in Coverciano.

Italy is the second-favorite to qualify from Path C of the World Cup playoffs behind Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. Italy is at +100, with the Portuguese at -120. Turkey now stands at +1200, while North Macedonia is at +5000.

Italy’s full training camp squad

Italy’s prospective World Cup squad consists of the following players:

Goalkeepers: Marco Carnesecchi (Cremonese), Alessio Cragno (Cagliari), Alex Meret (Napoli), Salvatore Sirigu (Genoa)

Defenders: Alessandro Bastoni (Inter), Cristiano Biraghi (Fiorentina), Davide Calabria (Milan), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Giovanni Di Lorenzo (Napoli), Alessandro Florenzi (Milan), Luiz Felipe (Lazio), Gianluca Mancini (Roma), Luca Pellegrini (Juventus), Giorgio Scalvini (Atalanta), Rafael Toloi (Atalanta)

Midfielders: Nicolo Barella (Inter), Bryan Cristante (Roma), Nicolo Fagioli (Cremonese), Davide Frattesi (Sassuolo), Manuel Locatelli (Juventus), Matteo Pessina (Atalanta), Samuele Ricci (Empoli), Stefano Sensi (Inter), Sandro Tonali (Milan)

Forwards: Mario Balotelli (Adana Demirspor), Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), Federico Bernardeschi (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Joao Pedro (Cagliari), Giacomo Raspadori (Sassuolo), Gianluca Scamacca (Sassuolo), Mattia Zaccagni (Lazio), Nicolo Zaniolo (Roma)