Italy coach Antonio Conte hinted that Andrea Pirlo's international future may be over on Monday after omitting the midfielder from his latest squad.
Italy, who qualified for Euro 2016 after finishing top of Group H with 24 points from 10 matches, face Belgium and Romania in friendlies matches on Friday and Tuesday. They will have to cope without New York City FC's Pirlo.
"Not calling up Pirlo was to be expected," Conte told a news conference on Monday. "Because he has not been playing for over two weeks because of the end of the (Major League Soccer) season. He is a player who I hold in high esteem, and he knows this, but I must be cold in my analysis. Andrea will be 37 and we will have to see. The start of the season in the U.S. will be in March, I will have to make my evaluation and consider the possibility that I can't take him to the European Championship."
Pirlo last represented Italy in their 1-0 victory over Malta in a Euro 2016 Group H qualifier on Sept. 3, but he was dropped to the bench for the win over Bulgaria three days later. The 36-year-old midfielder was named in Conte's squad for the double-header againstAzerbaijan and Norway in October, but withdrew from the squad with an adductor injury. He returned to Major League Soccer action on Oct. 25, playing the full match as New York City ended their season with a 3-1 home defeat by New England Revolution.
Conte urged Pirlo, who has made 116 appearances for Italy, to consider a move back to Serie A during the MLS offseason. "If Pirlo returns to Italy I would be very pleased," Conte continued. "He could train properly and would still make an impact. My fear is that by staying away he could lose all that."
Pirlo made his international debut in September 2002 and helped Italy win the World Cup in Germany four years later. He was influential as Italy reached the final of Euro 2012 but could not prevent the Azzurri falling to a 4-0 defeat by Spain.