Balotelli must show he can become a champion, says Italy head coach Prandelli

The Azzurri manager has admitted he was "upset" with the timing of the forward's recent eye operation and hopes he can boost his country's performances upon returning.

Italy manager Cesare Prandelli has questioned Mario Balotelli‘s commitment to the national side and called on the striker to show he can “become a champion.”

The 22-year-old has missed the Azzurri’s first two 2014 World Cup qualifiers, in which Italy gained an unconvincing draw against Bulgaria and a win against Malta, to undergo surgery on his eye.

The Manchester City striker has been selected in the new 27-man squad to face Armenia and Denmark, and Prandelli has admitted that, despite being upset that Balotelli missed the last pair of qualifiers, he is hoping the forward can make a big difference to the team's performances.

"I admit I was upset by Balotelli's decision to have an eye operation the same week that two Italy games were on the horizon," Prandelli told reporters on Monday. "I've called him up to try and assess whether he wants to become a champion."

The Italy coach has decided to recall some other familiar faces to his squad, with experienced players such as Alberto Gilardino and Domenico Criscito, but has insisted that the younger players are the future of the country's chances for success, with the likes of 19-year-olds Stephan El Shaarawy and Marco Verratti also included.

"Young people are the future, and we have to focus on them," the 55-year-old coach said. "(Spain manager Vicente) Del Bosque told me that after the World Cup in South Africa he changed 50 percent of his squad. Renovation is the key word."

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