Mario Balotelli has been overlooked for Roberto Mancini’s latest Italy squad as the head coach instead turns to a revitalised veteran to lead his strike force.
Ahead of Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Finland and Liechtenstein, Mancini has recalled 36-year-old Sampdoria striker Fabio Quagliarella, who has scored 20 Serie A goals this season.
Former Manchester City and Liverpool forward Balotelli has contributed five goals in seven appearances for Marseille since leaving Nice in January but the 28-year-old is not in the 29-man selection named on Friday afternoon.
Also returning to contention for national duty are Roma’s Stephan El Shaarawy, Leonardo Spinazzola of Juventus and Armando Izzo of Torino.
Mancini will also take the opportunity to look at younger players including Juve forward Moise Kean, teenage Roma midfielder Nicolo Zaniolo and defender Giuseppe Mancini of Atalanta, who is not related to the Italy boss.
Chelsea’s Jorginho represents the English Premier League in the squad while Paris St Germain playmaker Marco Verratti, Cristiano Piccini of Valencia and Freiburg midfielder Vincenzo Grifo are other Italians who play in foreign leagues.
The Azzurri host Finland in Udine on Saturday, March 23 before welcoming Liechtenstein to Parma three days later.
Italy squad: Cragno (Cagliari), Donnarumma (AC Milan), Perin (Juventus), Sirigu (Torino); Biraghi (Fiorentina), Bonucci (Juventus), Chiellini (Juventus), Florenzi (Roma), Izzo (Torino), Mancini (Atalanta), Piccini (Valencia), Romagnoli (AC Milan), Spinazzola (Juventus); Barella (Cagliari), Cristante (Roma), Jorginho (Chelsea), Sensi (Sassuolo), Verratti (Paris St Germain), Zainolo (Roma); Bernardeschi (Juventus), Chiesa (Fiorentina), El Shaarawy (Roma), Grifo (Freiburg), Immobile (Lazio), Kean (Juventus), Lasagna (Udinese), Pavoletti (Cagliari), Politano (Inter Milan), Quagliarella (Sampdoria).
Copy provided by Press Association Sport
Gareth Southgate does not believe England new boy Declan Rice should have to defend his switch from the Republic of Ireland.
Southgate’s comment was directed especially to both critics who have not “walked in those shoes” or former players that benefited from the rules.
Just eight days after FIFA ratified Rice’s switch of association, and less than 24 hours after being named Ireland’s best young player, he was included in the Three Lions squad for the upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers against the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
The 20-year-old represented the Republic at youth and first-team levels but his three senior caps were for friendly matches, allowing the West Ham defensive midfielder to switch to his country of birth.
The London-born player’s decision sparked debate – and in several cases backlash – but Southgate defended Rice after making a “complex decision” in a changing world.
“I think it’s easy to be vocal when you haven’t walked in those shoes,” the England boss said.
“I think he spoke really eloquently about being somebody of dual heritage and what that means. I saw a really good article that Eni Aluko wrote on that as well.
“For me it was easy, I could only play for England, so there was no question in my mind. And for lots of people that commented, that was the same.
“There were others who have commented, despite the fact that they didn’t play for the country of their birth, so they’ve benefited from some of the rules that are there.”
Preston-born former Ireland international Kevin Kilbane has been outspoken about Rice’s switch and said it “makes a mockery” of international football.
Andy Townsend, who was born in Maidstone and represented the Republic, said the “rules are wrong”, while former England striker Alan Shearer echoed such sentiments.
“Fundamentally, in this actual instance, he’s a boy that was born in London and educated at an English academy,” Southgate added.
“So, I don’t think there’s too much that he needs to defend but I understand the fact that there was a senior cap with Ireland, so that was always going to make it more complicated.
“But I think we’ve got to look at his age and normally a player of that age making this decision would be able to do it in a much lower-profile case, as was Michael Keane, as was Matt Targett who came from Scotland, as was the case with David Brooks who went across to Wales.
“So, I just think this is going to be increasingly part of the landscape because families are more transient.
“People will move countries because of family work and, as I said, there are over 50 per cent of our younger teams that will have dual heritage or maybe more than two countries they can play for, and that is just the nature of the world.”
Southgate pointed to Alex Iwobi, Ethan Ampadu and Brooks as players that have gone onto play for other countries having represented England at youth levels, like Wilfried Zaha and Victor Moses before them.
On the other hand, defender Keane is now part of the squad and the England manager says former Republic youth international Jack Grealish could be part of his plans down the line.
As for Rice, Southgate likes his “increasing technical and tactical awareness” in midfield as well as his personality and on-field leadership.
Such attributes led the Three Lions boss and former Football Association technical director Dan Ashworth to visit Rice before last summer’s World Cup, when they made it clear they saw an international future for him.
Southgate said he did not compare the achievements of England and Ireland in that meeting, instead focusing on how he saw the then-teenage defender as a player and where he might fit in.
“Then I gave him as much space as possible, occasionally calling just to say, ‘look, we’ve not spoken but it’s not because we’re not interested, but other people will be talking to you a lot, so we don’t want to be silent and (for you to) think we don’t care’,” Southgate said.
“It was really important that he had space because I knew that backlash would come. Maybe not everyone thought that might happen but I knew for sure that would happen.
“So he needed to be very certain in his mind that he was making the right decision and for the reasons that he’s talked about.”
Goalkeepers: Jack Butland (Stoke City), Tom Heaton (Burnley), Jordan Pickford (Everton)
Defenders: Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool), Ben Chilwell (Leicester City), Michael Keane (Everton), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City), James Tarkowski (Burnley), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham Hotspur), Kyle Walker (Manchester City)
Midfielders: Ross Barkley (Chelsea), Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Eric Dier (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea), Declan Rice (West Ham)
Forwards: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United), Jadon Sancho (Borussia Dortmund), Raheem Sterling (Manchester City), Callum Wilson (Bournemouth)
Bayern Munich trio Jerome Boateng, Mats Hummels, and Thomas Muller are no longer in Joachim Low’s plans and will not be considered for international selection, the Germany manager revealed in a bombshell announcement on Tuesday.
All three were among of the core members of Germany’s 2014 World Cup-winning squad. However, the disastrous group stage exit at last year’s tournament saw many of the squad’s veterans come under fire for their performances.
Low is set to name his squad for Germany’s two upcoming internationals this month, a friendly against Serbia on March 20 and a Euro 2020 qualifier against the Netherlands four days later.
30-year-olds Hummels and Boateng and 29-year-old Muller have made a combined 246 appearances for Die Mannschaft, with Muller having won the Golden Boot at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, where the then-20-year-old was also named the best young player. The forward has 38 goals in 100 appearances for his national team, finishing as Germany’s ninth-highest scorer all-time. Centre-backs Hummels and Boateng earned 70 and 76 caps respectively.
Low flew to Munich to speak to all three players in before making the announcement.
“2019 is the year of a new start for the German national football team,” the Germany manager said. “It was important to me personally to explain my thoughts and plans to the players and managers of FC Bayern.”
Thomas Müller, Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels for the German National Team:— Squawka Football (@Squawka) March 5, 2019
👕 100 games
⚽ 38 goals
🏆 1 World Cup
👕 76 games
⚽ 1 goal
🏆 1 World Cup
👕 70 games
⚽ 5 goals
🏆 1 World Cup
The end of an era. 🇩🇪 pic.twitter.com/9HOBuxeyYB
This decision could be part of a larger cull as Low looks to rebuild the squad around the country’s talented young players. 32-year-old captain Manuel Neuer, long regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, is being challenged by Barcelona’s Marc-Andre ter Stegen, 26, while 31-year-old Sami Khedira has already been dropped.
A youthful squad led Germany to a 2017 Confederations Cup triumph, and Low was criticised for sticking with his veteran squad even after last year’s World Cup instead of relying more on the players who were part of that 2017 run. But the manager is changing direction decisively now.
“In the year of qualifying for the European Championship 2020, we are sending out a clear signal: the young national team players will have the space they need to fully develop,” said Low. “They have to take responsibility now.”
Reinhard Grindel, president of Germany’s football association, hailed Low’s move.
“I welcome the fact that he is now making decisive progress in transforming our national team and starting the qualification for Euro 2020 is the right time for personnel changes,” said Grindel.