Mario Balotelli has set his sights on breaking into Italy’s Euro 2020 squad after making his mother cry by completing a move to hometown club Brescia.
The former Manchester City and Liverpool striker – born in Palermo but brought up by his adoptive parents in Brescia – is reported to have turned down an offer from Brazilian club Flamengo to sign a “multi-year” contract with last season’s Serie B champions.
The 29-year-old had been a free agent since he was released by Ligue 1 side Marseille at the end of last season.
Balotelli has won 36 caps for his country, scoring 14 goals, and hopes having his former City boss Roberto Mancini in charge of the national team can help him find a way back into the Italy set-up.
“I am absolutely targeting a place in the Italy squad for Euro 2020,” he said, in quotes reported by Football Italia.
“I spoke to Mancini when he wished me a happy birthday (earlier this month).”
Discussing the reaction of his mother when she learned of the move, Balotelli added: “My mum cried when I told her I had the possibility of coming to Brescia.
“I asked what she thought and she was just crying. She’s very happy.
“My father was from Brescia, he supported the team and it was his dream to see me play with this jersey, so I think he’d be happy too.
“The president and I had already met in England many years ago. (Agent) Mino Raiola proposed the idea and it really wasn’t difficult for me to choose Brescia.”
Balotelli was the target of racist abuse during previous spells in Serie A and stressed: “I hope with all my heart that we do not see a repeat of incidents that happened many, many years ago when I was last in Italy.
“I can’t start thinking about that, though.”
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The 25-year-old was strongly linked with a move to the Premier League as Tottenham and Manchester United were both in talks to sign the forward.
However, the close proximity to the English transfer deadline scuppered a switch to Spurs while United pulled out of a swap-deal involving Romelu Lukaku when it became clear Dybala was not keen on the transfer.
It’s left the Argentina international in an awkward spot with Sarri looking to offset his summer business by trimming as much as six players to meet Champions League requirements.
“I can talk with him but the market goes in a certain direction and what I say counts for zero,” Sarri said after Dybala returned to action for Juve in their 2-1 International Champions Cup defeat to Atletico Madrid.
“Six players must be cut [and could also be sold] depending on the market.
“I would like to keep all of them but our problem is that we do not have players who have grown up within the club – we have only one. So our squad for the Champions League must be 22 players with three goalkeepers and this puts us in difficulty because the market dictates we may have to make choices that we don’t like.”
While Sarri was non-committal on Dybala’s immediate future, the Italian did say the forward has the ability to fit into his plans.
“He’s done two training sessions and today he played half an hour,” Sarri said.
“It’s clear he can’t be in top physical condition and the fact he’s not fit means he can’t play the false nine role.
“But I think he has the ability, and has scored the goals previously, to play there and a technically good player can play in a number of roles. When he’s fit we’ll see if he can play that role in the penalty box.”
Krzysztof Piatek has been the talk of Serie A ever since he established himself as a prolific goal-scorer last season.
The Polish striker scored 19 goals for Genoa and 11 for AC Milan, taking his total to 30 goals in his debut season of Italy’s top flight.
He admitted to Gazzetta that he could not have hoped for a better start to his career in Italy.
The 24-year-old outscored his dream strike partner Cristiano Ronaldo by two goals in the league.
“Cristiano Ronaldo and Andriy Shevchenko,” replied Piatek when asked as to which player would make a dream striking partner.
“When I arrived in Italy, who would have thought that I would have scored more than CR7. But I want to improve and become top scorer. I will do everything to succeed.”
Piatek has already made a name for himself at Milan and has been presented with the iconic no9 jersey. He does not believe that the number on the back will burden him with extra pressure.
He added: “Nine is an important number for a striker, all the best have it – [Robert] Lewandowski, [Luis] Suarez, [Karim] Benzema, [Harry] Kane.
“I am happy because the club believed in my qualities, they told me that I should have the shirt, while I said that I would have fought with all my strength to get it, and I did.
“I don’t believe in superstition and this curse. For me, nine is normal, everything will be fine like with 19. It’s not scary to me.”