world soccer 9.9.2018 12:51 pm

Ex-Italy coach Sacchi says Azzurri, Balotelli lack ‘intelligence’

Italy's forward Mario Balotelli looks on during the UEFA Nations League football match between Italy vs Poland at Renato Dall'Ara Stadium in Bologna on September 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO

Italy's forward Mario Balotelli looks on during the UEFA Nations League football match between Italy vs Poland at Renato Dall'Ara Stadium in Bologna on September 7, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / MARCO BERTORELLO

Legendary Italian manager Arrigo Sacchi on Saturday slammed Mario Balotelli and the Azzurri for lacking “intelligence” as Italy struggled to a 1-1 draw against Poland in their Nations League opener.

“Football is a collective sport and intelligence matters more than the feet,” Sacchi, who lead Italy to the runners-up spot at the 1994 World Cup, told the Italian station Radio Deejay.

“So first I would choose players who have intelligence.

“I would say that you play as a team. You have to have few but clear ideas.”

Balotelli was heavily criticised for his performance in his first competitive game for Italy since the 2014 World Cup.

“When Balotelli wanders around by himself and doesn’t even attempt to stick to the plan, what are you supposed to say to him?” said Sacchi.

The 28-year-old limped off after an hour before Chelsea midfielder Jorginho rescued a point in Bologna.

Balotelli is now in doubt for Italy’s second Nations League game against Portugal in Lisbon on Monday.

“We need generosity, passion, professionalism. Everyone has a car, but to get it moving, you need petrol,” continued the 72-year-old Sacchi, who led AC Milan to back-to-back European Cup crowns in 1989 and 1990.

“And in football, petrol is intelligence, passion, professionalism.

“Let’s just say that having the concept of team spirit is a strong start to making you a worthy person.”

Roberto Mancini was appointed coach in May to rebuild an Italy devastated after the four-time winners failed to qualify for the World Cup.

Mancini recalled the controversial striker and Balotelli has played in every game under his former Inter Milan and Manchester City coach.

He played three friendlies in June, scoring on his debut in a 2-1 friendly win over Saudi Arabia.

Sacchi was also scathing of Italy’s Under-21 side who lost 3-0 to Slovakia in a friendly. He branded the young players “presumptuous and arrogant”.

Meanwhile, Alessandro Costacurta, the Italian Football Federation vice-commissioner praised Mancini.

“Since Roberto arrived, there has been growing enthusiasm and he brought a great breath of fresh air after a difficult period.

“As Mancini said yesterday (Friday), everyone must have more courage to perhaps give Balotelli better service and then he can deliver the goals.”

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