Rome: Mario Balotelli has not been excluded from the Italy squad, coach Antonio Conte said on Monday, despite overlooking the maverick striker for this month`s Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Conte said that Balotelli, heavily criticised for his performance at the World Cup and left out of Conte`s first two matches in charge last month, needed more time to adapt after his move from AC Milan to Liverpool.
"I make selections, not exclusions," Conte told reporters at Italy’s training camp outside Florence.
"Balotelli has started on a new path and it`s not easy, he will be given time to integrate himself into a new championship.
"I certainly follow him just as I follow all the players who are abroad." Conte also lavished praise on Southampton striker Graziano Pelle who has been given his first call-up at the age of 29.
"Pelle has deserved his chance from every point of view," said Conte.
"He has scored 50 goals in the last two seasons (with Feyenoord) and he is also showing this season that he is a leading figure in a league that is more difficult than the Dutch one.
"He is an example that here we will do things on merit; we have our eyes open and a player who does well in the league will get a chance."
Italy are at home to Azerbaijan on Friday and visit Malta the following Monday.