Mario Balotelli trains with Italy as he returns after three-year absence - in pictures

Roberto Mancini's team face tricky World Cup qualifiers in March

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Mario Balotelli trained with Italy on Thursday after being recalled by manager Roberto Mancini for the first time in more than three years for a training camp ahead of 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

Balotelli, 31, was one of several surprise call ups including Brazil-born Joao Pedro, who is now an Italian citizen.

Mancini has a lot on his plate during the camp at the national training centre at Coverciano, near Florence, ahead of tough playoffs in late-March against North Macedonia and, in the case of victory, either Portugal or Turkey.

Balotelli made the last of his 36 international appearances in September 2018 and has scored 14 goals for Italy. He now plays for newly-promoted Turkish side Adana Demirspor.

Balotelli did well for Nice for two seasons in France prior to a short spell with Marseille before moving on to Brescia back in Italy and then Monza in Italy's Serie B.

Italy host North Macedonia on March 24. The winners advance to play at Portugal or Turkey five days later.

Mancini also handed seven players their first international call-ups, although one of them, defender Giorgio Scalvini has had to pull out of the squad along with Inter defender Alessandro Bastoni. They have been replaced by Gian Marco Ferrari, Alessio Romagnoli and Caleb Okoli.

Mancini said he wanted can see if Balotelli can "help" in the World Cup playoffs.

"What has he promised me? Absolutely nothing," Mancini said at the start of the three-day camp in Florence on Wednesday.

Adana Demirspor is the 31-year-old striker's 10th club.

"He was called up as others have been called up. We are curious to see him again after a little time," said Mancini, who coached Balotelli at both Inter Milan and Manchester City and recalled him in 2018.

"He must not promise me anything, as I must not promise him anything. We will evaluate if he can help.

"Technically, Mario has always been good, it's not a problem. We have to see where he is physically. We've lost sight of him a little bit," said Mancini who has summoned 35 players to the camp in preparation for the play-offs.

Updated: January 28, 2022, 10:40 AM
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