Mario Balotelli's omission from Italy's national team has prompted the striker's outspoken agent Mino Raiola to take aim at the Italian Football Federation (FIGC).
Italy are beginning a new era under interim boss Luigi Di Biagio with friendlies against Argentina and England, having suffered the humiliation of failing to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in 60 years.
Balotelli has not featured for the Azzurri since their group-stage exit at the finals in Brazil four years ago, but the enigmatic striker has made a creditable job of rebuilding his ailing career with Nice in Ligue 1.
The 27-year-old former Manchester City and AC Milan star has 22 goals in 31 matches across all competitions this season, but Di Biagio selected uncapped youngsters Patrick Cutrone and Federico Chiesa ahead of him and suggested at a news conference this week that Balotelli's lack of all-round contribution had counted against him.
"We're disappointed with the failure to call-up Balotelli," Raiola told Radio 24 before emphatically rejecting Di Biagio's analysis.
"We're even more disappointed with the explanation we received publicly, because we haven't spoken to anyone.
"If Di Biagio says that numbers don't count for a striker then the national team is closed for players like him."
Raiola then criticised the FIGC – a federation at a low ebb following Gian Piero Ventura's ill-fated tenure.
"The problem isn't the coach - it's the football system. We have a federation that works without a plan or an idea for the future.
"The national team should be represented by the best, so if the best don't go then we don't understand the criteria.
"In other nations, when the national team plays, it's a party but for us it's a reason to fight. There's no plan or identity, all we do is change the manager.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte and Balotelli's former manager at Inter and City, Roberto Mancini, have been linked to the post – the demands of which Raiola feels are beyond ex-Roma midfielder Di Biagio.
"I would restart from the German system. We have a system similar to the English one, where the coach works as a manager, but Di Biagio isn't the right person for that," he added.
"When things go well it's thanks to everyone, but when they go badly the coach takes the blame alone, even if he doesn't have any problems.
"To have Balotelli in the national team you need a person with a strong character to manage him. Ventura wasn't that, in fact he was in total confusion and Di Biagio is showing the same thing.
"The striker is just a player who scores, and if the dressing room doesn't want him then who is saying that? Do they have names and surnames? Do they control the dressing room or does the coach?"
20. Januar 2019
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