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Mario Balotelli admits he was hurt by Italy snub

Mario Balotelli has admitted that he was hurt after being left out of the Italy squad for the past four years. The Nice striker returned to the national team fray under new boss Roberto Mancini last month but he confessed his disappointment over the lack of opportunities since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Speaking to reporters, he said: “I was upset without the Nazionale. There’s no point talking about the past now, as we have to start again and look to the future. It’s disappointing I wasn’t even considered, but there’s no good thinking about that now. Antonio Conte was right not to call me up during Euro 2016, because physically I was not in good shape. Giampiero Ventura spoke to me about why I wasn’t called up, but I didn’t really understand his reasoning. I respect his choices.”

Balotelli has tended to hold a mixed relationship with the Azzurri faithful with a section of the fans demanding his involvement over the past few years. On the other side, there has also been opposition over him representing the country with some supporters holding up a banner during the Saudi Arabia game insisting he was not ‘Italian’.

Nevertheless, Balotelli is happy to have made his comeback with the national side and he has set his sights on maintaining his position for the long-term after scoring on his return against Saudi last week. Meanwhile, Balotelli has yet to decide on his next challenge after deciding that he would be leaving Nice on a free this summer. Marseille have been earmarked as the main contenders for his signature but he could yet jump at the chance of joining a Serie A outfit. The Italian is currently the second highest capped player in the Italian squad (35) after skipper and experienced centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.