Mino Raiola has criticised Italy coach Luigi Di Biagio’s decision to leave his client, Mario Balotelli out of the squad that will face Argentina and England in upcoming friendlies.
Mario Balotelli, 27, hasn’t played for his country since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, when Italy lost 1-0 to Uruguay in their final group stage game.
Balotelli has enjoyed a renaissance since joining Nice in summer 2016, scoring 22 goals in 31 matches this campaign. However, Di Biagio did not see fit to give Balotelli another Italy call-up, saying that while his scoring rate was impressive, he still did not convince him for other reasons.
Raiola is not impressed, though, and told Radio 24 that Di Biagio has been a coward for not giving Balotelli a chance.
“If Di Biagio says that numbers don’t matter for an attacker, then that means there’s no way back into the national team for Mario,” Raiola said. “To have him in the national team, you need somebody with a strong character to manage him. [Gian Piero] Ventura wasn’t — in fact, he was totally confused, and Di Biagio is showing the same thing.
“This federation is disgusting, full of incompetent people. And don’t come to me talking about dressing room issues — the forwards are the only players who just have to score goals, and if he’s not wanted in the dressing room, they just have to say.
“We respect the coach, but he is not the problem. We’ve got a federation working without any plan; without any idea about the future. The national team should be represented by the best players and if the best players aren’t being called up, then we really don’t understand the criteria.”
Raiola said Di Biagio’s decision to call up 40-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon proves that different treatment is being reserved for different players.
“Buffon gets called up with reasoning which we don’t see applied to Balotelli — it’s almost discrimination and it’s sad,” Raiola said. “I’m surprised by Gigi’s call-up, although I do like him. But this is how Italy is. I’ve been trying to change things for 10 to 15 years without success.
“We put the national team into the hands of Ventura and then Di Biagio, who have not done anything at the highest level, but let’s see what the results are now. If we win, then they’ll be right because this is all that counts in Italy, even if I think this is wrong.”