Prandelli hails Italian presence in Ballon d'Or candidates

Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Mario Balotelli were all named in the running for the individual accolade, and the Azzurri boss has reacted with delight to their inclusion

Cesare Prandelli has spoken of his pride at seeing three of his Italy players listed as candidates for the 2012 Ballon d'Or.

Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo were nominated in the 23-man list for the annual Fifa award following their exploits in helping Juventus lift the Serie A title last season, along with Mario Balotelli, whose 13 Premier League goals helped fire Manchester City towards becoming English champions.

However, the trio have also been recognised for their roles in the Azzurri's run to the final of Euro 2012, and the national team boss congratulated his squad members for both their inclusion in the preliminary selection and the boost it has given football in the country.

"It is great news for the whole of Italian football," Prandelli told reporters. "It is recognition that gives us great optimism for the future.

"It is brilliant to have three candidates for the Ballon d'Or."