Mancini's mum makes case for Balotelli after Italy World Cup woe
Roberto Mancini will be searching for answers after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, and his mother has helpfully provided one: Mario Balotelli should have been called up.
Speaking on Rai Radio 1 on Friday, Marianna Puolo said Mancini's Azzurri would have benefited from Balotelli's power, and his inclusion could have staved off what played out in Palermo, where Italy lost 1-0 to North Macedonia.
Balotelli, a one-time teenage wonder who now plays for Adana Demirspor in Turkey's Super Lig, has long been a favourite with Mancini, dating back to their time together as player and coach at Inter and Manchester City.
Now 31, Balotelli earned a recall for an Italy training camp at the beginning of this year. He had not been capped by Italy since head coach Mancini played him three times in 2018, which followed a four-year absence from the national team.
There was no room for Balotelli in Italy's squad for the World Cup play-offs, however, and the semi-final defeat to North Macedonia means the four-time champions will miss this year's finals in Qatar, just as they were absent in Russia four years ago.
"We had the game in our hand, but the attack was not great," said Mancini's mother.
"What would I have done different? I would have called Balotelli, because he has incredible physical strength and nobody stops him in front of goal.
"Sometimes he does stupid things, but I would have called him."
Italy had 32 shots but could not find a goal against North Macedonia, who had four and hit the back of Gianluigi Donnarumma's net in stoppage time, breaking Italian hearts.
Puolo agreed with her son's post-match verdict that it would go down at the biggest disappointment of his career.
"Yes, because in his career he has more or less always done well," she said. "I heard him this morning, he was sorry, but we know that these things happen in sport."
Jorginho's 90th-minute missed penalty at 1-1 against Switzerland in Italy's penultimate group-stage qualifier ultimately proved highly costly. Had he tucked it away, Italy would have likely not needed a play-off.
Chelsea midfielder Jorginho also missed from the spot in the first game against Switzerland, which finished as a draw, too.
Mancini's mother gave her verdict on Jorginho, saying: "Of course he didn't do it on purpose, poor thing, but if you miss two or three penalties, in the end, you pay for it."