Mario Balotelli’s form for Nice this season warrants a long-awaited Italy recall, according to Marco Materazzi.
Balotelli is enjoying one of the most prolific spells in his career, having scored 31 goals in 49 Ligue 1 appearances for Nice during the last two seasons.
The centre-forward has not appeared for his country since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, having been overlooked by successive coaches in the form of Antonio Conte, Gian Piero Ventura and recent caretaker Luigi Di Biagio.
Materazzi, though, wants to see the 27-year-old offered the opportunity to add to his 33 caps and 13 international goals, as the Azzurri, who missed out on a place at the World Cup in Russia, prepare to try and qualify for Euro 2020.
“He deserves it for what he is doing on the field,” Materazzi, a 2006 World Cup winner, told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
“That’s without mentioning that off the field he has not been as controversial as has been made out.”
The Italian Football Federation is in negotiations with Roberto Mancini to become the next coach of the national team.
Balotelli played under Mancini for one season at Inter in 2007-08 and later joined him at Manchester City, where the pair won the Premier League title in 2011-12.
And Materazzi believes their relationship means Mancini could get the best out of the striker.
“Mancini has the advantage of knowing how to deal with him and how to make him feel wanted,” he said.
Pierluigi Casiraghi, Gianluca Pagliuca, Marco Tardelli and Demetrio Albertini were the other former Italy internationals quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport as supporting the prospect of a Balotelli recall.