Luigi Di Biagio

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Balotelli reportedly gets first Italy recall since 2014 World Cup

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Mario Balotelli is back in the frame for Italy as interim coach Luigi Di Biagio will reportedly recall the big striker to the national team.

Football Italia says Balotelli, 27, will have the chance to wear the blue of his national team when the side faces Argentina and England next month.

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A 13-goal scorer in 17 league matches for Nice, Balotelli has five more goals between Champions League and Europa League matches plus a cup goal to give him 19 in 25.

Balotelli has 13 goals in 33 caps, but his mercurial nature has stopped him from earning a cap since the 2014 World Cup ended with a 1-0 group stage loss to Uruguay.

He’s tied for sixth in Ligue 1 when it comes to goals, level with ex-Newcastle man Florian Thauvin and behind Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Falcao, Nabil Fekir, and Mariano, and is also among the Ligue 1 leaders in shots and yellow cards.

Unfortunately, any continued growth will likely not lead to another World Cup with Italy having missed its chance for Russia 2018.

Luigi Di Biagio takes over as Italy coach on caretaker basis

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ROME (AP) Under-21 coach Luigi Di Biagio was promoted Monday to take over Italy’s senior national team on a caretaker basis for friendlies against Argentina and England next month.

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The Azzurri have been without a coach since Gian Piero Ventura was fired following a playoff loss to Sweden in November that ruled Italy out of the World Cup for the first time in six decades.

Italy plays Argentina in Manchester, England, on March 23 then faces England in London four days later. The Azzurri’s next competitive fixture isn’t until Sept. 7 against Poland in the inaugural UEFA Nations League.

The 46-year-old Di Biagio played for Italy as a midfielder at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

Roberto Mancini, Carlo Ancelotti and former Italy coach Antonio Conte are among those being considered for the full-time job.

Roberto Fabbricini, the Italian football federation’s emergency commissioner, mentioned Mancini as a candidate last week.

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On Monday, he also mentioned current Nantes manager Claudio Ranieri as a possibility.

“Ranieri is no less appealing than Mancini. He’s got the credentials,” Fabbricini said. “But we need to be attentive from a procedural point of view. Many of these coaches are currently under contract. Either they free themselves up or it will be difficult to ask them to consider the job.”

Ranieri coached Leicester to an improbable English Premier League title in 2016.

Fabbricini also suggested that many current Serie A coaches could be considered – perhaps referring to Massimiliano Allegri at six-time defending champion Juventus.

“It’s Alessandro Costacurta’s job to get in contact with the candidates,” Fabbricini said, referring to his vice commissioner and the former AC Milan and Italy defender.