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Roberto Mancini Named New Italy Boss

Italy coach Roberto Mancini says he will talk to long-excluded striker Mario Balotelli about a possible return to the national team.

Speaking at his presentation in Florence on Tuesday, Mancini said: ‘Mario is an Italian player. We’ll definitely talk. He’s one of those players we should take a new look at.’

Balotelli has not played for Italy since the 2014 World Cup, but he featured under Mancini at Inter Milan and Manchester City.

During their time at City, Mancini often clashed with the troublesome star.

The pair famously had a bust-up during a training session before being separated by staff and team-mates.

Mancini is replacing Gian Piero Ventura, who was fired in November after the Azzurri failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Four-time world champions Italy are at an all time low of 20th in the FIFA rankings after losing 1-0 on aggregate to Sweden in a play-off for a place in Russia.

They were eliminated in the group stage at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups, although they have done better at the European Championship, reaching the final in 2012 and the quarter-finals in 2016.

Mancini said he will lead a new era following an underwhelming season in charge of Zenit and told reporters he would contact the player most synonymous with his coaching career.

“Even in difficult times, Italy can boast of having players of great quality,” he said. “I will certainly also speak with Balotelli.

“There will be space for whoever will do well for the team. Age is certainly important because we need to build for the future but there is no set criteria to exclude in this regard.

“I want to get to know the players before deciding how we’ll play. The formation and mentality has to be determined by the characteristics of the squad.”

Mancini collected 36 caps for Italy between 1984 and 1994 and made no effort to hide the pride associated with taking charge of his country – something he hopes to restore to a bruised footballing nation at large.

“I’m emotional. I thank the FIGC [Italian Football Federation] for putting their trust in me. I’m proud of this moment,” he added.

“I first set foot in Coverciano [the FIGC’s Florence headquarters] in 1978. To come back as head coach is special.

“To coach the national team is a reason to be proud for anyone. I think that it’s the right moment for me. It’s a difficult time and there’s a lot to do.

“I had a very long relationship with the national team. I had [Enzo] Bearzot, [Azeglio] Vicini and [Arrigo] Sacchi as my coaches. I want to be the head coach who brings Italy back to where we belong in Europe and in the world.

“The failure to qualify for the World Cup caused mourning and this shows how important it is for our country.

“Our task will be to make Italy close to the fans again through our play and results. All the players here are quality professionals. I ask them to show the dreams that are in their hearts.”

Mancini’s first game in charge will be against Saudi Arabia on May 28 – the first of three friendlies in a week, with matches against France and Netherlands also scheduled.