Italy coach Antonio Conte has warned the likes of Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi that they are going to have to work hard to force their way into the reckoning for a place at Euro 2016.
The Squadra Azzurra have already booked their place in France next summer with one qualifying match to spare.
Those players form the basis of his plans for next summer, with Roma’s Daniele De Rossi — who is currently suspended — the 28th name Conte is pondering.
That means any outsiders have plenty of work to do if they are to secure a place at next summer’s European Championship.
“Anybody who wants to break in has got to warrant it and prove to me that they are far better than the players who have qualified us,” Conte said at a news conference on Monday. “There are eight months to go and a lot of things can still happen, but we qualified with a certain group and this is going to play a major role.
“We got through this group with a certain number of players and if anybody wants to break into it, they really are going to have to deserve it, not just with one or two good games or a few goals, and not because they get lobbied from the north or the south, and let me be very clear about that.”
Former Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni believes Balotelli, now back on loan at AC Milan after a dismal season with Liverpool, should not be ignored.
“I don’t know if there will be any room for him, but Balotelli could be considered,” he told Calcionews24.it. “Conte will be watching him and he will decide whether or not he can help out. It will all depend on the way Balotelli develops.”
Mario Balotelli is not currently in Antonio Conte’s plans for Euro 2016.
Whatever Conte decides, Trapattoni is sure it will be the right choice.
“Conte’s done a great job with this group, making them cohesive and bringing the best out of the players he has chosen,” the former Ireland manager said. “He’s got results that I wouldn’t quite say have been surprising, because they were within our means, but when you start over again there are always uncertainties.
“The former Juve coach deserves a lot of credit because he’s given character and good organisation to this side, getting the best from their inherent quality. There’s been a gradual transformation of the character and mentality, a development of the game with great personality — all things that are not insignificant.”
That view is shared by Juve and Italy defender Leonardo Bonucci, who branded Conte “certainly the best Italian coach around” at a recent news conference.
“Conte arrived after a disastrous World Cup and you’ve seen his handwriting on our games since,” the 28-year-old said. “Italy have an identity, even when we change formation frequently. He always wants his platoon ready for battle in every game and you can see this in how he prepares his teams for games.”