Milan: Mario Balotelli is just another player and should be treated the same way as the others, Italy coach Antonio Conte said on Monday.
Conte, who has called up Balotelli for the first time since he replaced Cesare Prandelli as Italy coach in August, said he would judge the maverick striker by his performances with Italy, not Liverpool, where he has struggled to settle in. "I`m worried that people see Balotelli differently to the others," Conte told reporters at Italy`s training camp near Florence.
"Balotelli is a normal footballer, just like the others, who can also stay on the bench, or in the stands. We don`t need to differentiate Balotelli from the others, he`s just one of the 23 players."
Conte said he was not paying attention to Balotelli`s troubles with Liverpool.
"Personally, I`m not going to pay attention to talk about the club," he said. "People try to exaggerate each situation and I feel sorry for him.
"Today he is here and he has to answer to me. I will judge him by what he does in the next seven to nine days."
Balotelli was heavily criticised for his performances at the World Cup, when Italy went out in the group stage.
"Balotelli has significant experience with the national team, he has played at a World Cup and a European championship, but that`s not enough," said Conte.
"He needs to catch my eye and I have to see if he can adapt to our type of football. If he can, he can play in the starting line-up, but he can also be on the bench or in the stands.
"My duty is to see how I can use them in this national team."
Italy, who have won all four games since Conte took over, host Croatia in a Euro 2016 qualifier on Sunday.