MILAN: Italy coach Giam Piero Ventura has left Mario Balotelli out in the cold ahead of an upcoming World Cup qualifier at Liechtenstein and a friendly at home to Germany.
Ventura, announcing his 28-man squad on Saturday, instead recalled Simone Zaza despite the fact he has failed to find the net since joining West Ham from Juventus in the summer.
Balotelli has not played for Italy since their disastrous first-round exit from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, after which he was partly blamed for the Azzurri’s doomed campaign.
He had been expected to feature in Ventura’s squad after scoring seven league goals since joining French outfit Nice from Liverpool on the transfer deadline day at the end of August.
But, even in the absence of Graziano Pelle — who was suspended for failing to shake Ventura’s hand after his second-half substitution against Spain last month — it was not enough to sway Ventura.
Inter Milan striker Eder, who usually plays alongside Pelle, is set to be partnered with either one of Serie A’s two most on-form Italian strikers.
Lazio’s Ciro Immobile has hit nine goals this campaign, only one behind the league-leading tally of Roma’s Bosnian striker Edin Dzeko. Andrea Belotti, meanwhile, has found the net six times for Torino.
In midfield, Ventura has recalled Claudio Marchisio, who has recently returned to the fray for Juventus following a six-month absence due to a knee injury.
Lazio midfielder Danilo Cataldi and Sassuolo winger Matteo Politano are also in the squad, but have yet to debut for the Azzurri.
Italy face Liechtenstein in Vaduz on November 12 in a World Cup qualifier, and host Germany at Milan’s San Siro ground three days later.
Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (AC Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa)
Defenders: Luca Antonelli (AC Milan), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United/ENG), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Alessio Romagnoli (AC Milan), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Davide Zappacosta (Torino)
Midfielders: Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Antonio Candreva (Inter Milan), Danilo Cataldi (Lazio), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Matteo Politano (Sassuolo), Nicola Sansone (Villarreal/ESP), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain/FRA)
Strikers: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Eder (Inter Milan), Manolo Gabbiadini (Napoli), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Leonardo Pavoletti (Genoa), Simone Zaza (West Ham/ENG)