Rome: Italian football federation (FIGC) president Carlo Tavecchio defended coach Antonio Conte's decision to include Mario Balotelli in the national squad, dismissing rumours that the Liverpool striker's recall was made under sponsors' pressure.
Balotelli is sponsored by sports manufacturer Puma, which also sponsors the Italian national team and speculation has been rife that his recall to the Azzurri was designed to placate the sportswear giant, reports Xinhua.
Conte dismissed the suggestion Monday and Tavecchio defended the former Juventus coach.
"Conte says he has to evaluate him (Balotelli) and I understand," Tavecchio said Tuesday.
"You must not think that the sponsors influence sporting decisions. It was a complicated operation (bringing Balotelli back) but the choice was entirely Conte's."
Conte said that he brought Balotelli back to the Azzurri in order to assess the 24-year-old's potential.
"It was planned that Balotelli would be called to be evaluated because you cannot judge (players) on hearsay. Surely it's right that we assess him closely," he said.
"I prefer to evaluate players because it's right to test them and see whether they share any technical and tactical similarities with my idea of the game and the affinity in their mind," he added.