Balotelli not in Italy squad, but Conte says he’s watching

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Mario Balotelli has looked sporatic since joining Liverpool, and has yet to score for the Reds in five matches.

His difficulties have led to the 24-year-old being yet again left off the Italy roster for the upcoming international break, as he was the last time around.

But new manager Antonio Conte says things aren’t by any means over for the beleagured Italian striker.

”He has started on a new path, it’s not easy,” Conte said of Balotelli’s move to Liverpool. ”Let’s give him time to integrate himself in this new league.

“We are following him just as we monitor all Italians that play abroad. I make selections not exclusions, which is something completely different.”

It hasn’t helped Balotelli that a number of Italian strikers are booming across Europe. Most notably, Graziano Pelle was added, and Conte had nothing but great things to say about the 29-year-old lighting up the Premier League who earned his first Italian call-up.

“Graziano represents that which I’ve said from the very first day — meritocracy,” Conte said. “He’s a footballer who has scored 50 goals in the past two years. Now he’s in a league which on paper is more competitive than the Dutch one and he is becoming a key player.”

Liverpool’s new man has tons of competition, with Conte selecting a whopping six strikers for his squad, but none named Mario. Pelle, Pablo Osvaldo, Mattia Destro and Ciro Immobile have all scored multiple goals for their teams this season, and were selected alongside Juventus’s Sebastian Giovinco and Sassuolo’s Simone Zaza.

Others not selected but still very much in the mix include Antonio Cassan0 and Alessio Cerci.

Andrea Pirlo was not initially selected, but he was added to replace an injured Giacomo Bonaventura. Italy will take on Azerbaijan on Friday and Malta on Monday in Euro 2016 qualifiers.