x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Mario Balotelli's conduct is a test of the Azzurri code

Cesare Prandelli, Italy's national coach, excluded the striker, who had elbowed an opponent in the face, from the Italian team ten months ago, Ian Hawkey wonders what the manager will do now.

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli, left, is serving a four-match suspension for his stamp on the head of Tottenham's Scott Parker.
Manchester City's Mario Balotelli, left, is serving a four-match suspension for his stamp on the head of Tottenham's Scott Parker.

Ten months ago, Cesare Prandelli, Italy's national coach, named an Azzurri squad for a friendly match against Slovenia which did not include Mario Balotelli, the Manchester City striker. Prandelli was naturally asked about the omission of a player whose importance to Italy had been growing over the previous 18 months.

Prandelli said, candidly, that Balotelli had been excluded because he had offended the code of ethics that had become a keynote aspect of his tenure as the Azzurri manager.

Balotelli had offended that code by elbowing an opponent, while playing for City, during a Europa League tie against Dynamo Kiev.

Last Sunday, as millions of television viewers around the world have seen, Balotelli stamped on the head of Tottenham Hotspur's Scott Parker in a Premier League match.

That in itself implies a degree of contrition, for which Prandelli will be grateful.

In introducing his code of ethics as Italy boss, he will have anticipated tests of it, not least once he decided that Balotelli, whose immaturity had bothered previous Italy managers at youth and senior levels, was to be central to his plans.

What Prandelli needs to do ahead of Italy's next fixture - a contest with the United States at the end of February - is articulate clearly his view of Balotelli's stamp and, if he picks the striker, how that decision fits into his code.

If not, the code of ethics just looks like a fair-weather, public relations stunt.