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Italy coach Di Biagio dismisses Raiola rage over Balotelli snub

Omnisport
NEWS
554   //    23 Mar 2018, 04:14 IST
Mario Balotelli
Mario Balotelli in action for Italy in 2014

Italy's interim coach Luigi Di Biagio says Mino Raiola's view over Mario Balotelli not being called up is "irrelevant".

Balotelli - who has not featured for Italy since the 2014 World Cup - was touted for a recall after scoring 14 Ligue 1 goals for Nice this season.

But Di Biagio turned to AC Milan's Patrick Cutrone and Fiorentina forward Federico Chiesa - son of Enrico - for March friendlies against Argentina and England.

Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, surprisingly losing a play-off against Sweden, and Balotelli's agent Raiola called for the country's football system to be revamped.

But Di Biagio - temporarily stepping up from his role as Under-21 coach - dismissed Raiola's criticism when he appeared in front of the media on Thursday.

"Balotelli has done very well and is a good player but I do have choices to make," Di Biagio said.

"I have known Raiola for 25 years, but I have so many things to think about that what he said is irrelevant."

Former Roma and Inter player Di Biagio is on a three-man shortlist to replace Gian Piero Ventura, who was sacked after Italy failed to reach the World Cup, along with Chelsea's Antonio Conte and Roberto Mancini of Zenit.

The 46-year-old will take charge of the Azzurri for the first time in Friday's friendly against Argentina at Manchester City's Etihad Stadium.

"For the moment I don't feel nervous, maybe I will tomorrow," Di Biagio told reporters. "I've got too much to do and don't realise what's happening.

"The lads are relaxed, as we've worked well over the last few days. It'll be an important evening for me, but while everything around it might've changed - a lot - the way I work hasn't.

"We need to find the right enthusiasm again quickly, to cancel out what happened in the past and prepare for this mini-World Cup. The next four friendly games can represent a little World Cup for us."

Omnisport
NEWS
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