Alberto Aquilani

Mario Balotelli excluded from Italy squad prepping for Euro 2016 qualifiers

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New Italy boss Antonio Conte has named his roster for upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta, but striker Mario Balotelli, who has been considered one of Italy’s more dynamic forwards, didn’t make the cut again.

And this action arrived after Brendan Rogers decided to nix the Italian from his usual starting XI in Liverpool’s 2-1 win over West Brom earlier today.

Balotelli was also excluded from his country’s friendly vs. the Netherlands and Euro qualifier against Norway in September.

Conte has added a fresh face to replace the 24-year-old striker in the forward rotation. His name is Graziano Pelle and he’s enjoyed a great beginning to the season, scoring five goals in eight games so far this season. Pelle is a huge reason for Southampton’s early year success.

On the defensive side, youngster Daniele Rugani received his very first call-up to the senior team, and the Blues highest-capped defender, Juventus man Giorgio Chellini, is unsurprisingly set to star for his country.

Below is the complete roster, via ESPN FC.

Goakeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Mattia Perin (Genoa), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain).

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter Milan), Daniele Rugani (Empoli).

Midfielders: Alberto Aquilani (Fiorentina), Giacomo Bonaventura (AC Milan), Antonio Candreva (Lazio), Matteo Darmian (Torino), Mattia De Sciglio (AC Milan), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Manuel Pasqual (Fiorentina), Andrea Poli (AC Milan), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint-Germain).

Forwards: Mattia Destro (Roma), Sebastian Giovinco (Juventus), Ciro Immobile (Borussia Dortmund), Pablo Daniel Osvaldo (Inter Milan), Graziano Pelle (Southampton), Simone Zaza (Sassuolo).

New York City FC sign Jacobson from Dallas, linked with Alberto Aquilani

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New York City FC are continuing to build their squad ahead of their entry to Major League Soccer in March 2015.

With four players already signed by director of football Claudio Reyna and head coach Jason Kreis so far, they now have a fifth player after acquiring FC Dallas midfielder Andrew Jacobson. The 28-year-old Californian joins Frank Lampard as New York’s second midfielder in club history.

[RELATED: Lampard signs for NYCFC]

Jacobson arrives in the Big Apple in exchange for NYCFC’s highest pick in the third round of the 2016 MLS SuperDraft. The versatile American has previously played for Philadelphia Union, D.C. United and FC Dallas in MLS and he will immediately go on loan to Bob Bradley’s Stabaek in the Norwegian Tippeligaen to prepare for his new time with NYCFC.

New York now have Designated Players Lampard and David Villa on board, while goalkeeper Josh Saunders and defender Jeb Brovsky have also joined the new expansion franchise. Jacobson will add depth across midfield and is a player who has vast knowledge of the league after playing in the North American top flight for six seasons after a brief spell with French side Lorient.

So, Jacobson is definitely joining NYCFC. What about Italian international Alberto Aquilani?

Reports from Italian outlet Sportsmediaset reported over the weekend that Aquilani could be heading to New York City FC as his contract with Serie A side Fiorentina runs out in June 2015. That would slot in quite well with New York’s inaugural MLS season and the creative midfielder would be a real coup for Kreis’ side. Over the last two campaigns he has regained the form he’s shown in patches for Italy as the Roman has scored 14 goals in 71 games.

Aquilani, 30, has played for Roma, Juventus, AC Milan and Fiorentina in Italy, while also playing for Liverpool in an unsuccessful spell back in 2009.  His quality is undoubted and if NYCFC were in for him, he would likely arrive in a DP slot which would mean in Villa, Lampard and Aquilani they’d have three star players from three of the biggest soccer nations in Europe.

Right now the Aquilani talk is pure speculation but it will be interesting to see where Kreis and co. use their third and final DP slot between now and next May. At the moment they only have five players, but NYCFC could put out a pretty decent five-a-side team. It’s a start.

Riccardo Montolivo fractures leg, will miss the World Cup with Italy

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Midfielder Riccardo Montolivo will miss out on a trip to Brazil after fracturing his left leg in Saturday’s goalless draw with Republic of Ireland.

After a collision with defender Alex Pearce, Montolivo attempted to walk off his injury. But it was clear he was in pain and, just eight minutes into the friendly, needed assistance to make his way to the sidelines. He was carried away on a stretcher and sent straight to the hospital, where X-rays confirmed a fractured tibia.

After the match, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli confirmed that Montolivo will undergo surgery in Milan and will miss the World Cup. It’s heartbreaking news for Montolivo who, at 29, is unlikely to get another chance at the tournament – unless, of course, he ages as well as Andrea Pirlo.

It’s upsetting news for Italy as well. Although Prandelli has yet to announce his 23-man squad, Montolivo was almost certainly going to be included in the roster. While many azzurri supporters are not fans of the midfielder, alleging that he drifts out of games and often contributes little, he’s a favorite of Prandelli.

And it’s fair to say that Montolivo will be missed in Brazil. His eye for a pass and ability to get himself into positions that trouble the opposition’s defense helped to spur Italy’s attacks. His most likely replacement, Marco Veratti, is still young, contributes almost nothing defensively and has a definite tendency to disappear in matches. He’s an exciting young talent, but Italy may end up missing Montolivo’s refinement and his leadership.

The azzurri have other concerns as well. Alberto Aquilani, who replaced Montolivo after his injury, left the game before halftime with a concussion. His Fiorentina teammate, Giuseppe Rossi, missed nearly half the season with injury, and failed to impress during the Ireland match.

In 2010, Italy left South Africa after the group stages, picking up just two points from what looked to be a rather weak group. Will this be another disappointing World Cup for the azzurri?