x

Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 June 2018

Roberto Mancini opens door for Mario Balotelli return after being named Italy manager

Former Inter Milan and Manchester City manager signs a two-year contract to take over the national team

Roberto Mancini at a press conference on Tuesday where he was presented as the new Italy national team manager. Carlo Bressan / AFP
Roberto Mancini at a press conference on Tuesday where he was presented as the new Italy national team manager. Carlo Bressan / AFP

Roberto Mancini has left the door open for Mario Balotelli to return to the Italy setup after being named the national team manager on Tuesday.

Mancini, 53, has signed a two-year contract to take over Italy after leaving his post with Russian club Zenit St Petersburg.

The former Inter Milan and Manchester City manager fills the vacancy left by Giampiero Ventura, who oversaw Italy's disastrous 2018 World Cup qualifying campaign when the four-time champions failed to reach the tournament for the first time in 60 years.

____________

Read more:

Europa League final: How Marseille's cavaliers can combat Atletico's cagey warriors

Bernardo Silva interview: Man City 'will do our best to be even better next season'

WATCH: Premier League winners Man City soak up fans' adulation in victory parade

____________

At his introductory press conference at Italy's training ground Coverciano, Mancini said there was much work to be done but his goal was to restore the fortunes of the national team.

"I'm emotional," said Mancini, who won 36 caps for Italy as a player. "I'm very proud of this moment. I first set foot in Coverciano in 1978 with the under-14s. To come back as the head coach is very special.

"To coach the national team is a reason to be proud for anyone. I think it's the right moment for me. It's a difficult time and there's a lot to do.

"I want to be the head coach who brings Italy back to where we belong in Europe and in the world."

Mancini's first match in charge will be a friendly against Saudi Arabia on May 28 before matches with France and Holland on June 1 and June 4.

And Mancini hinted his first squad could feature a familiar face from his title-winning sides at both City and Inter, Balotelli.

The 27-year-old striker has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup, but has rebuilt his reputation with Nice in Ligue 1 after difficult spells with Liverpool and AC Milan.

"Even in difficult times, Italy can boast of having players of great quality," Mancini said in comments on the FIGC, Italy's football federation, social media channels. "I will certainly speak to Balotelli."

Missing out on Russia 2018 caused significant soul-searching in the country, but Mancini sees a road back.

"The failure to qualify for the World Cup caused mourning and this shows how important it is for our country," he said.

"I hope I can be the person who brings Italy back to a significant triumph. This is what will unite people more than anything."