Ever the subject of headlines in the football world, Mario Balotelli is once again the centre of discussion after securing a £16 million move to Liverpool from AC Milan.
His transfer to Anfield comes with huge expectations as he leaves behind his boyhood favourites just a year-and-a-half after departing Manchester City for San Siro.
At the weekend the 24-year-old’s agent Mino Raiola labelled Balotelli’s Merseyside adventure his last chance at the top level, with age no longer an excuse for antics.
Balotelli’s behaviour amid Italy’s disappointing World Cup exit this summer was strongly condemned by many. Meanwhile, recent reports have claimed new Azzurri boss Antonio Conte has reservations about the flamboyant striker.
Former Inter director Gabriele Oriali has now joined the ex-Juventus coach on the Italy staff as team manager, and spoke about Balotelli’s international prospects going forward.
Oriali told Sport Mediaset: “Balotelli is a player like all the others and must earn his call-up. As a player, he is a talent still being formed."
“That means he can give more and I hope he will do for Italy. I will stop here, as it’s only right that the coach talks about the players.”
Despite the belief that Conte has his doubts about Balotelli, it would certainly still be a shock to see him dropped from the Italy squad in the near future.
What Oriali’s comments suggest is indeed in line with what Raiola said of the striker just days ago. Balotelli is at a crossroads in his career and the time has come to realise his full potential.
Conte and Oriali will no doubt be keeping close tabs on how Balotelli gets on at Liverpool, keen to see him settle in quickly and produce upon his return to English shores.
The Azzurri return to action on September 4 in a friendly against the Netherlands, opening their quest to qualify for Euro 2016 five days later away to Norway.
By then Balotelli should have his first Liverpool appearance under his belt opposite Tottenham, the start of what Italy’s staff will be hoping is a new chapter for the 24-year-old.