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Mario Balotelli helps AC Milan beat Chievo 1-0

Balotelli inspires Milan to victory over Chievo as race for Champions League spots hots up

PUBLISHED:

20:02 GMT, 30 March 2013

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UPDATED:

20:02 GMT, 30 March 2013

Mario Balotelli helped AC Milan take a huge step towards securing Champions League football by playing a major role in the Rossoneri’s win over Chievo Verona.

Milan moved provisionally into second place in Serie A after they won 1-0 and Fiorentina and Roma both lost.

The win lifts Milan six points above fourth-place Fiorentina as the race for next seasons Champions League hots up.

Helping hand: Mario Balotelli played his part in Milan's win

Helping hand: Mario Balotelli played his part in Milan's win

Beating his man: Balotelli skips past Luca Rigoni

Beating his man: Balotelli skips past Luca Rigoni

Celebration time: AC Milan's midfielder Riccardo Montolivo celebrates with Balotelli and teammates after scoring

Celebration time: AC Milan's midfielder Riccardo Montolivo celebrates with Balotelli and teammates after scoring

Chievo goalkeeper Christian Puggioni could only parry Balotelli's fierce free kick and Riccardo Montolivo was quickest to react and smashed home the rebound.

Dario Dainelli was sent off for Chievo following a second booking 13 minutes from time.

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Mario Balotelli scores again for AC Milan, his fourth goal in three league games, with a curling free-kick against Parma

Milan falls deeper in love with Mario (and so does his girlfriend) after Balotelli grabs his FOURTH goal in three games back home

-13 season for Manchester City.

The volatile Italian forward has made an instant impact on his return to Milan and he scored yet again with a 78th-minute free-kick at the San Siro in a 2-1 win over Parma.

His girlfriend Fanny Robert Neguesha, a Belgian model, was in the stands to see his curling free-kick and she caught the eye as she made heart shapes with her hands… presumably aimed at Balotelli.

You beauty: Mario Balotelli curls in a 78th-minute free-kick against Parma

You beauty: Mario Balotelli curls in a 78th-minute free-kick against Parma

Flying start! The Italian scored his fourth goal in three league games for Milan

Flying start! The Italian scored his fourth goal in three league games for Milan

Mario Balotelli

Mario Balotelli

Why always me Balotelli celebrates his goal at the San Siro

Embrace: Balotelli celebrates his goal with team-mate Riccardo Montolivo

Embrace: Balotelli celebrates his goal with team-mate Riccardo Montolivo

Since Balotelli left the Etihad in January, not a lot has gone right for Manchester City as draws against QPR and Liverpool as well as defeat at Southampton have all but ended their chances of retaining the Premier League crown they won on a dramatic final day last year.

But the controversial striker has made a flying start to his Milan career, which began with fireworks on the day of his arrival.

In the stands: Balotelli's girlfriend Fanny Robert Neguesha makes a heart shape with her hands

In the stands: Balotelli's girlfriend Fanny Robert Neguesha makes a heart shape with her hands

Guest: Balotelli's girlfriend Fanny Robert Neguesha makes a heart shape with her hands

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Mario Balotelli dismisses criticism of his attitude by Manchester City chief Brian Marwood

I don't give a damn! Balotelli hits back at criticism of his attitude by Man City chief

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UPDATED:

09:25 GMT, 17 October 2012

Bad boy Mario Balotelli has shrugged off criticism of his attitude and behaviour by Manchester City chief Brian Marwood.

The Italian striker's strained relationship with the Blues was exposed by reports the club's academy
youngsters had been warned not to follow the example of his 'values or behaviour'.

Goal-den boy: Mario Balotelli is congratulated by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli

Goal-den boy: Mario Balotelli is congratulated by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli

Sporting director Marwood, who
is overseeing a 100million investment in the new Etihad Campus,
named other City players, including Gareth Barry and goalkeeper Joe
Hart, as better examples to follow.

But Ballotelli, who was on target for the Azzurri against Denmark on Tuesday, hit back.

he told Italian TV station Rai
Sport: 'I’m fine at Manchester City even though
there are people who like to talk in the newspapers, instead of saying
certain things to my face. I don’t give a damn.’

Balotelli also insisted he had the backing of City boss Mancini.

On target: Balotelli scores against Denmark

On target: Balotelli scores against Denmark

He added: ‘With Mancini all goes well, we have a good relationship even
though someone always tries to put discord among us. We love each
other.’

The former Inter man was in fine form for Cesare Prandelli’s Italy side against the Danes on his return to San Siro, scoring one and setting up Riccardo Montolivo for another in a 3-1 win.

‘I felt shivers returning to San Siro,” he said. “This is the most beautiful stadium. If it was full it would have been even better.

‘With the national team and with City I’m getting better in terms of work-rate and commitment. I always try to be humble.’

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Italy 3 Denmark 1 – Mario Balotelli on target

Balotelli stars for Italy as Azzurri's qualifying campaign sparks into life

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UPDATED:

23:23 GMT, 16 October 2012

Mario Balotelli helped Italy get the convincing win they needed to silence some of their critics despite playing virtually the entire second half with 10 men at home to Denmark.

Two goals in the space of five first-half minutes from Riccardo Montolivo and Daniele De Rossi had them 2-0 up eight minutes before the break, although Denmark got a goal back in first-half injury time through William Kvist Jorgensen.

Then, just 18 seconds into the second half, Italy's Pablo Osvaldo was shown red for violent conduct after an incident involving Denmark's Nicolai Stokholm.

Super Mario: The game was wrapped up when Manchester City striker Balotelli poked home

Super Mario: The game was wrapped up when Manchester City striker Balotelli poked home

Super Mario: The game was wrapped up when Manchester City striker Balotelli poked home

However, Cesare Prandelli's team,
largely unimpressive in their World Cup qualifying campaign so far, did
not let that throw them off their stride as Balotelli – making his first
appearance for Italy since Euro 2012 – fired in a third in the 54th
minute.

The mercurial
Balotelli's first contribution had been to concede a free-kick as
Denmark mounted an early attack but after Nicklas Bendtner fired wide,
Italy began to find their feet.

Montolivo tried a sighter from a long range before Stokholm blocked Osvaldo's shot to concede a corner.

Morgan
De Sanctis, starting in goal in place of the injured Gianluigi Buffon
for Italy, was called on to tip Christian Eriksen's 30-yard shot over
the crossbar.

Osvaldo
headed wide from Ignazio Abate's cross before Simon Kjaer got in a block
to concede a corner when Federico Balzaretti drilled an effort from
outside the area.

Denmark
threatened again just after the half-hour mark, with Kvist Jorgensen's
shot tipped over by De Sanctis before Bendtner headed over from the
resulting corner.

Starter's orders: Italy's Riccardo Montolivo opened the scoring with a low drive against Denmark

Starter's orders: Italy's Riccardo Montolivo opened the scoring with a low drive against Denmark

Starter's orders: Italy's Riccardo Montolivo opened the scoring with a low drive against Denmark

But moments later it was Italy who led with Balotelli reminding Italy why they had missed him, the Manchester City striker picking out Montolivo to lash the ball home.

Denmark had barely recovered from that when it became two with Andrea Pirlo crossing for De Rossi to head in from close range.

Denmark
twice threatened in quick succession with Lars Jacobsen shooting over
and Dennis Rommedahl sending an effort narrowly wide before they got
their goal, Kvist Jorgensen finishing from the edge of the area after
being picked out by Jacobsen.

Given their recent shaky form, Osvaldo's
red card might have rattled Italy when it came so soon in the second
half, but instead they pulled further clear, with Pirlo teeing up
Balotelli to fire a shot low into the net.

Head boy: Midfielder Daniele De Rossi got in on the act five minutes later with a powerful header

Head boy: Midfielder Daniele De Rossi got in on the act five minutes later with a powerful header

Denmark pushed for a way back into the game, but Michael Krohn-Delhi curled a shot over and Daniel Agger's more powerful effort was likewise too high.

Eriksen joined in with another shot from range that drifted over the crossbar and the chances began to dry up with Italy looking to consolidate their position.

Understandably, there was little ambition shown by the outnumbered Italians, but they almost nicked a fourth when Stephan Andersen fumbled Montolivo's long-range effort inside the final 10 minutes.

The win sees Italy move four points clear of Bulgaria at the top of Group B although third-placed Czech Republic, five points back, have a game in hand.

Denmark are in trouble with only two points from three matches.

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Euro 2012: Mario Balotelli dedicates his double to adopted mum

Balotelli dedicates double to adoptive mum as Italy star savours best night of his life

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UPDATED:

00:20 GMT, 29 June 2012

Mario Balotelli's two goals fired Italy into the Euro 2012 final – then he dedicated the double to his adoptive mum.

Balotelli's first-half brace was enough to secure a 2-1 win over Germany in Warsaw, and book a showdown with champions Spain on Sunday.

And at the final whistle, the Manchester
City star embraced Silvia, who brought him up from the age of two after
he was born in Italy to Ghanaian immigrants.

This one's for you: Mario Balotelli embraces adoptive mother Silvia after scoring both goals to fire Italy into the final of Euro 2012

This one's for you: Mario Balotelli embraces adoptive mother Silvia after scoring both goals to fire Italy into the final of Euro 2012

'After the game, when I went to my mum I said “these goals are for you”,' he said.

'I waited for this moment for so long and I wanted to make my mum happy. Tonight was the most beautiful of my life – but I hope that this Sunday is even better.'

On top form: Mario Balotelli celebrated his second goal in exuberant style, with Claudio Machisio (below) is the first to congratulate him after the telling second

On top form: Mario Balotelli celebrated his second goal in exuberant style, with Claudio Machisio (below) is the first to congratulate him after the telling second

The main man: Claudio Machisio is the first to congratulate Mario Balotelli after his telling second

Balotelli broke the deadlock when he rose to power home Antonio Cassano's 20th-minute cross.
His second was a belter, striding clear of the Germany defence to collect Riccardo Montolivo's superb through ball before blasting an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer.

It took Balotelli to three goals for the tournament and he is now favourite to win the coveted Golden Boot prize.

No hard feelings: Balotelli shakes hands with Manuel Neuer after his two ruthless finishes

No hard feelings: Balotelli shakes hands with Manuel Neuer after his two ruthless finishes

'In the final I hope to make it four,' he said. 'I will try to score another goal but in football you can do that a lot and still never score. Sometimes you need a bit of luck.'

Balotelli was quick to heap praise on his team-mates for their contribution to his performance, which surprisingly was not enough to secure the man-of-the-match prize, which went to playmaker Andrea Pirlo.

On a plate: Balotelli nods home to put Italy 1-0 up

On a plate: Balotelli nods home to put Italy 1-0 up

'These two goals are really important,' he said. 'The first one was a really amazing pass from Antonio Cassano and then it was easy.

'The second one was a great pass from Montolivo, normally I shoot in the other corner but I went for the near post.'

Italy have already drawn once with Spain at the start of the tournament.

Firecracker finish: Balotelli holds off the attentions of Philipp Lahm to blast Italy into a two-goal lead

Firecracker finish: Balotelli holds off the attentions of Philipp Lahm to blast Italy into a two-goal lead, sparking a wild celebration from Gigi Buffon (below)

Passionate: Gigi Buffon

Now they must go one better if he is to prevent Manchester City team-mate David Silva guiding Spain towards history as the first team to win three successive tournaments.

'With Spain we are the two best teams in the tournament,' he said. 'Can we win I'll tell you on Sunday!'

Balotelli also earned the praise of Italy manager Cesare Prandelli, who masterminded a famous win, which maintains the Azzurri's stranglehold on meetings with Germany.

Handle with care: Cesare Prandelli helps Balotelli leave the pitch after his substitution

Handle with care: Cesare Prandelli helps Balotelli leave the pitch after his substitution

'He was excellent, like the entire team,' said Prandelli.

'I really believe that a team needs to have an idea of the way they play, and he really subscribed to this playing style.

'He ran into space high up the pitch, was always available, and put in a very good performance this evening.'

For Germany manager Joachim Low, it was another shattering disappointment.

Painful viewing: Joachim Low, Hans-Dieter Flick and Andreas Kopke look uneasy on the German bench

Painful viewing: Joachim Low, Hans-Dieter Flick and Andreas Kopke look uneasy on the German bench

Despite reaching the past four for the fourth tournament running, they are still to end their wait for a trophy, which stretches back to Euro 96.

Although they were expected to provide a much stiffer test than England, in fact, it was easier for Italy, who ended Germany's 15-match winning streak in competitive matches.

'We've had two great years,' said Low. 'The team has really developed well. We won 15 games in a row but lost today against an incredibly strong Italian side, with a strong axis and two great strikers.

'There's no reason to doubt ourselves. Our team was the youngest team here. Even though there's disappointment today, we played a wonderful tournament and I am sure we will be able to cope with this defeat.'

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Euro 2012: Riccardo Motolivo has German flag stitched into boots

Split loyalties Italy midfielder Motolivo has GERMAN flag stitched into his boots

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UPDATED:

10:47 GMT, 27 June 2012

Italy midfielder Riccardo Montolivo has the German flag stitched into his boots but his mother's Hamburg heritage will be put to one side when the teams clash in the Euro 2012 semi-final on Thursday.

Montolivo, born in Italy and with an Italian father, sees himself as part-German given his mother hails from there. He speaks German fluently – even translating his own answers during a news conference.

'It's for sure a special match,' Montolivo said. 'Part of me is German. I spent every summer in Germany until I was 15 with my grandparents near Hamburg and I'm still in touch with many friends there. But I feel Italian.'

Split loyalties Montolivo - who missed a penalty against England - will put his mother's German heritage to one side

Split loyalties Montolivo – who missed a penalty against England – will put his mother's German heritage to one side

Split loyalties Montolivo - who missed a penalty against England - will put his mother's German heritage to one side

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The 27-year-old, who will join AC Milan from Fiorentina in July, is likely to start the Warsaw encounter as Italy's most advanced midfielder having shone in the quarter-final with England before missing a penalty in the shootout.

Undeterred, he will show off his never-say-die German character if Thursday's game also goes the distance.

'If it happens again, I'll put my hand up to take one,' the Italian said. 'Penalties are not missed by those who don't take them.

'When you miss the world crashes down onto your shoulders but when I returned to the halfway line I was calm and confident. I was convinced my miss would not be decisive.'

Enlarge

Best foot forward: The German flag on Montolivo's boots

Best foot forward: The German flag on Montolivo's boots

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Clarence Seedorf says farewell to AC Milan after a trophy-laden decade at the San Siro

Seedorf says farewell to AC Milan after a trophy-laden 10 seasons with the Rossoneri

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UPDATED:

18:29 GMT, 21 June 2012

AC Milan have agreed to sign Chievo defender Francesco Acerbi and Genoa's Guinea midfielder Kevin Constant, but Clarence Seedorf is leaving after 10 years with the Rossoneri.

Milan, who lost their Italian league title to Juventus in May, are swelling their ranks having let several of the old guard leave the San Siro, including Gennaro Gattuso, Alessandro Nesta, Filippo Inzaghi, Gianluca Zambrotta and Mark van Bommel.

Fond farewell: Seedorf

Fond farewell: Seedorf

Seedorf, who won the Champions League in 2003 and 2007 with Milan to notch up four winners' medals in total, joined the band of departures – but did not reveal where he is going amid reports he will join Brazil's Botafogo.

Superb servant: Seedorf

Superb servant: Seedorf

'I am leaving after 10 fantastic years – they were intense years, so many seasons passed by so quickly like everything that's great in life, the 36-year-old Dutchman told a news conference.

'I thank everyone, truly everyone. What emotion. I will let you know soon about my future. I am taking my time. I have lots of offers.'

It is understood that Seedorf wants to play on for another two seasons elsewhere before returning to Milan as part of the staff.

Massimiliano Allegri's side have drafted in Fiorentina's Riccardo Montolivo and Nancy's Bakaye Traor for next term but with Mathieu Flamini set to be released, another midfielder should arrive before the season's opener in August.

Milan also said in a statement that the midfielder Sulley Muntari has had surgery on knee ligament damage and is expected to be fit in five or six months.

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Euro 2012 results Italy 1 Croatia 1 Mario Mandzukic cancels out Andrea Pirlo"s pearler

Italy 1 Croatia 1: Mighty Mandzukic pounces to cancel out Pirlo's pearler

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UPDATED:

18:26 GMT, 14 June 2012

Mario Mandzukic scored his third goal in two Euro 2012 games to leave Croatia and Italy's quarter-final hopes on a knife-edge.

Croatia went into the Group C encounter knowing a win over Italy would guarantee them a last-eight place, but they were decidedly second best in the opening 45 minutes at Poznan's Municipal Stadium.

Italy deservedly led at the half-time interval courtesy of Andrea Pirlo's stunning free-kick, but were never the same attacking force in the second period, allowing Mandzukic to equalise in the 72nd minute.

With four points from two matches, Croatia now face a challenging final clash with reigning world and European champions Spain.

Level pegging: Mario Mandzukic scores the equaliser

Level pegging: Mario Mandzukic scores the equaliser

MATCH FACTS

Italy: Buffon, Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini, Maggio, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta (Montolivo 62), Giaccherni, Balotelli (Di Natale 69), Cassano (Giovinco 83). Subs not used: Sirigu, Ogbonna Obienza, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli, Borini, Diamanti, Nocerino, De Sanctis.

Booked: Motta, Montolivio.

Scorer: Pirlo 39.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Rakitic, Vukojevic, Modric, Perisic (Pranjic 68), Jelavic, Mandzukic (Kranjcar 90+3). Subs not used: Kelava, Simunic, Buljat, Badelj, Vrsaljko, Dujmovic, Kalinic, Vida, Eduardo, Subasic.

Booked: Schildenfeld.

Scorer: Mandzukic.

Referee: Howard Webb (England).

Attendance: 37,096.

As for Italy, who have now drawn both
of their matches, they know they will have to beat the Republic of
Ireland on Monday to be in with a chance of a quarter-final spot.

Although Italy coach Cesare Prandelli
remains unbeaten in competitive internationals with eight wins and four
draws, he will likely feel this was a game that should have been won in
the first half.

Italy signalled their intent inside three minutes, via Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli in particular.

Receiving Emanuele Giaccherini's
left-wing ball inside the area and with his back to goal, Balotelli made
one touch and a sharp turn before firing a 12-yard left-foot shot
narrowly wide.

It was the start of a predominantly
one-sided half, with Claudio Marchisio shaving the crossbar with a
rasping 20-yard drive just eight minutes later.

A further opportunity for Balotelli,
with a snap shot straight at goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa, and an Antonio
Cassano flick through the six-yard box sandwiched Croatia's one
significant chance.

That came in the 20th minute when Darijo Srna played a piercing low ball from the right into the near post.

Big noise: Mario Mandzukic hit his thrid goal of Euro 2012 to draw Croatia level

Big noise: Mario Mandzukic hit his thrid goal of Euro 2012 to draw Croatia level

All that was required was the merest
of touches from Nikica Jelavic that would potentially have been enough
to beat Gianluigi Buffon, but instead the veteran was allowed to
collect.

Italy, though, retained their
stranglehold on the game and should have taken the lead eight minutes
from the break, only for Marchisio to twice be denied by Pletikosa.

After a delightful touch to leave Srna
for dead inside the area following a through ball from Cassano,
Marchisio's initial left-foot shot was superbly saved by Pletikosa, who
then blocked the follow-up at point-blank range.

Dead ball expert: Andrea Pirlo curls in a beauty to give Italy the lead

Dead ball expert: Andrea Pirlo curls in a beauty to give Italy the lead

No chance: Stipe Pletikosa dives in vain as Andrea Pirlo's free-kick rasps into the net

No chance: Stipe Pletikosa dives in vain as Andrea Pirlo's free-kick rasps into the net

It's a celebration: Italy players run to congratulate Andrea Pirlo

It's a celebration: Italy players run to congratulate Andrea Pirlo

But with the danger still present,
Ivan Ratikic fouled Balotelli on the edge of the area, allowing Pirlo to
whip a 21-yard right-foot free-kick over the wall and inside
Pletikosa's right-hand post.

It left Slaven Bilic's side going into
the break knowing they had to up the tempo and chase the game in the
second half, which they at least started with greater urgency.

But after Luka Modric first fired a
20-yard shot a yard over the bar the encounter turned scrappy, dominated
by niggly fouls and challenges until Balotelli came within inches with a
fierce drive on the hour.

No more: Croatia's Ognjen Vukojevic attempts to prevent Croatian fans from throwing flares into the pitch

No more: Croatia's Ognjen Vukojevic attempts to prevent Croatian fans from throwing flares into the pitch

Stamp it out: Ognjen Vukojevic and Ivan Perisic attempt to extinguish the flare

Stamp it out: Ognjen Vukojevic and Ivan Perisic attempt to extinguish the flare

Stamp it out: Ognjen Vukojevic and Ivan Perisic attempt to extinguish the flare

Then finally, in the 72nd minute,
Croatia made their presence felt in the right way as their two-goal hero
from the 3-1 win over the Republic of Ireland struck again.

Ivan Strinic's ball from deep on the
left wing was missed by Giorgio Chiellini, allowing Mandzukic to control
and beat the advancing Buffon in off the right-hand post from six
yards.

Croatia finished the game the stronger
as they went in search of the winner that would have sealed their
last-eight place, but it was not to be, leaving both sides facing a
dramatic final group game.

Loud and proud: Croatia fans show their support in Poznan

Loud and proud: Croatia fans show their support in Poznan

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Euro 2012: Italy name provisional squad

Double boon for Balotelli as City striker named Italy's provisional squad for Euro 2012

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UPDATED:

20:26 GMT, 13 May 2012

Manchester City's Mario Balotelli is the only Premier League representative in Cesare Prandelli's provisional Italy squad for Euro 2012.

The controversial striker is part of a list of 32 names which will be cut to 23 on May 29, less than a fortnight before the tournament in Poland and Ukraine kicks off.

Prandelli has also included five uncapped players – Mattia Destro, Emanuele Giaccherini, Ezequiel Schelotto, Marco Verratti and Angelo Ogbonna – the latter two of whom ply their trade in the second division.

I pick you: Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has selected Mario Balotelli in his provisional squad of 32 for Euro 2012

I pick you: Italy boss Cesare Prandelli has selected Mario Balotelli in his provisional squad of 32 for Euro 2012

ITALY'S PROVISIONAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus),
Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint Germain), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli),
Emiliano Viviano (Palermo).

Defenders: Cristian Maggio (Napoli), Domenico Criscito (Zenit St.
Petersburg), Ignazio Abate (Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo),
Davide Astori (Cagliari), Salvatore Bocchetti (Rubin Kazan), Leonardo
Bonucci (Juventus), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini
(Juventus), Andrea Ranocchia (Inter), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino).

Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus),
Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Thiago Motta
(Paris Saint Germain), Antonio Nocerino (Milan), Riccardo Montolivo
(Fiorentina), Ezequiel Schelotto (Atalanta) Luca Cigarini (Atalanta),
Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), Marco Verratti (Pescara).

Strikers: Antonio Cassano (Milan), Mario Balotelli (Manchester City),
Sebastian Giovinco (Parma), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Mattia Destro
(Siena), Fabio Borini (Roma).

Balotelli is joined up front by Antonio Cassano, another who attracts as many frontpage headlines as he does backpage.

Prandelli, who introduced a code of ethics when he became coach after the 2010 World Cup, left Balotelli out of the squad for a friendly against the United States in February after he received a four-match suspension for his stamp on Tottenham midfielder Scott Parker.

Cassano, meanwhile, fell ill with stroke-like symptoms on AC Milan's team plane while returning from a match at Roma in October and then required minor heart surgery that kept him out for five months.

Previous coach Marcello Lippi left Cassano out of his squad at both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but he was a fixture in attack in Euro 2012 qualifying under the current boss.

There are also first call-ups under Prandelli for Udinese striker Antonio Di Natale and Rubin Kazan midfielder Salvatore Bocchetti.

The squad – apart from Juventus and Napoli players, who face each other in the Italian Cup final next weekend – will meet up on Monday at a training base in Coverciano on the outskirts of Florence for two days of fitness tests.

Italy are in a group with Spain, Republic of Ireland and Croatia.

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Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani heading back to Liverpool

Kop flops Cole and Aquilani heading back to Anfield as transfers hit snags

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UPDATED:

07:43 GMT, 25 April 2012

Liverpool's forgotten men Joe Cole and Alberto Aquilani are set to rejoin Kenny Dalglish's squad this summer when their respective loan deals at Lille and AC Milan expire.

Dalglish took the decision to farm out the midfield duo last summer, but neither Lille nor Milan are willing to pay the money required to secure the permanent services of the pair.

Not wanted: Dalglish sent Cole (right) out on loan to Lille

Not wanted: Dalglish sent Cole (right) out on loan to Lille

Cole's 90,000-a-week wages are the stumbling block for the Lille, with president Michel Seydoux this week admitting that the club could only afford the former England international if they were to win the Ligue 1 title for the second year in a row – but they currently lie in third place.

'It’s rare that an England international comes to France and that he then publicly declares he wants to stay,' said Seydoux of the 30-year-old.

'We will see. I haven’t found a machine yet that lets you make beautiful bank notes by pedalling.

'It’s true that the league table will have a bearing on Lille’s recruitment.'

Frozen out: Milan want to make sure that Aquilani (right) does not make 25 starts

Frozen out: Milan want to make sure that Aquilani (right) does not make 25 starts

Aquilani, 27, cost the Reds 20million back in 2009, but is on loan in Italy for a second successive season, having spent last year at Juventus.

Were the Italian international to make 25 starts for Milan this season then a 7m transfer fee would be automatically triggered, but the Rossoneri are keen to see that the former Roma man does not reach that mark.

Aquilani has started just 17 times this season and only once in the last eight games. He started just 14 games for Liverpool in his only season in the first-team back in 2009-10.

Milan are believed to be interested in signing Italian international midfielder Riccardo Montolivo from Fiorentina, who would be a cheaper option than Aquilani, who earns just south of 100,000-a-week.