Prandelli sees Balotelli as future Italy star

BY foxsports • November 12, 2011

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli is delighted after Mario Balotelli broke his international scoring duck against Poland and predicted on Saturday the striker could become the key player in the Azzurri attack.

Balotelli and Giampaolo Pazzini replaced injured starting forwards Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano in Friday's game and both scored to earn Italy a 2-0 victory.

It was Balotelli's first goal in six internationals and followed a sometimes controversial period for the Manchester City forward.

He recently had to evacuate his house in England after fireworks were let off in his bathroom and he has been criticized at times by City manager Roberto Mancini. The 21-year-old is regularly pictured on the gossip pages of Italian newspapers with an array of women and has been questioned by Naples prosecutors over a visit last year to the heartland of the city's Camorra crime syndicate.

''After all the criticism he has received in these months it's right that he should enjoy this moment,'' Prandelli said. ''I'm happy to have him because he is important for this project.

''I would not be unhappy at all if Italy became dependent on him.''

Balotelli's chance to become a key player for Italy reflects the fact that Rossi had knee surgery last week and Cassano is recovering from heart surgery. Both players expected to be out for up to six months and their chances of recovering fully in time for next year's European Championship are slim.

Balotelli said before the Poland game that he was ready to take on more responsibility and Prandelli is confident the forward has learned from his past mistakes.

''Mario has in him the ability to have performances like that,'' Prandelli added. ''His attitude was great throughout the 90 minutes.

''Compliments to Mario and also to Mancini, who has worked on this aspect in the club. I hope Mario has embarked on a path to maturity. We are here to help him.''

Prandelli hinted that he sees Balotelli as being better matched with striker Sebastian Giovinco, who was sent home from Italy's training camp last week with a leg muscle injury.

''It's not difficult to pair Balotelli up front with either Pazzini, (Alessandro) Matri or (Pablo) Osvaldo,'' he continued. ''But it would have been more significant, and even more fascinating, to see him together with Giovinco.''

Italy face Uruguay in another friendly on Tuesday and Balotelli is likely to once again lead the attack.

''Against Uruguay there will be several changes,'' Prandelli said. ''They are one of the strongest teams in the world. I think Balotelli will play again, I believe I will put him forward again.

''We have to treat this game as if it was in the Euros, even if the pressure will be different.''

Italy will train Sunday on a pitch in the small Calabrian town of Rizziconi that was confiscated from a crime syndicate to show support in the fight against organized crime.

''It's a gesture that can help people who live in particular situations,'' Prandelli said. ''I hope it's not an isolated gesture. There is the desire to face up to the mafia, to back those determined to resist.''

Calabria's 'Ndrangheta crime syndicate is today considered more powerful than the Sicilian mafia and has become one of the world's biggest cocaine traffickers.

Italy normally trains in the town of Coverciano on the outskirts of Florence.

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