January 25, 2013
Mario Balotelli and Manchester City are in second place in the Premier League behind United.
Alastair Grant/AP

Mario Balotelli will realize his true potential, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said, and Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini is the right man to help him get there.

"We've talked on the phone. I've given him personal advice, which will remain between us,'' Prandelli said in an interview with Friday's Gazzetta dello Sport. "The hope remains the same, that Mario decides to finally invest in himself; that he says, OK, now I'll become the best in the world, I'll put away the character I've become and let only my football do the talking.

"I always believe he can do it.''

Balotelli joined City from Inter Milan in 2010, and was reunited with former coach Mancini.

However, a training-ground altercation with Mancini and a lack of starting appearance has seen the 22-year-old striker strongly linked with a return to Italy and a move to AC Milan, the club he supports.

"There is no reason why a coach should give up on such a talent,'' Prandelli said. "There is no other coach who deserves Mario's thanks more that Mancini. He wanted him, defended him. Mario needs to do what Mancini asks of him.

"We've had no problems with Balotelli. He's always the last to training, but never late. I have the advantage over Mancini that I work with him for brief periods ... but he was impeccable at the European Championship.''

Prandelli also said he will continue to focus on youth ahead of the 2014 World Cup and will take Stephan El Shaarawy and Marco Verratti to the Confederations Cup.

"I still have to talk about it with (under-21 coach Devis) Mangia,'' Prandelli said. "The Euro Under-21 finals are important, but the national side is the priority. We'll divide the players and I think I'll have El Shaarawy and Verratti with me.

"A lot of people criticized El Shaarawy after his debut in the England friendly, but I saw a real player. I told him to go and give his best for Milan and we would see each other again. I didn't need him to score 14 goals.''

Prandelli also revealed he is eager to get 19-year-old Sampdoria striker Mauro Icardi to commit to Italy.

Icardi has an Italian passport but was born in Argentina and has made five appearances for the South American country's under-20 side.

"He wants to play for Argentina? He's told us something different,'' Prandelli said. "We spoke, there was an agreement, then something happened. But we're still hopeful.''

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