Italy coach Giampiero Ventura says the door to the national team is still open for Mario Balotelli, although he adds the Nice forward has yet to completely convince him that he is a reformed man.
With Andrea Belotti pulling out of Italy's World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia in Turin on Friday and Albania in Tirana next Tuesday, there had been renewed calls for Balotelli to return.
Ventura has instead summoned Chievo's Roberto Insigne to join Ciro Immobile, Eder and Manolo Gabbiadini as his four forwards for the two fixtures, from which Italy need to pick up just a point to secure second place in their group and earn a playoff for a place at next summer's World Cup.
Despite some impressive displays from Balotelli of late, including a spectacular rabona pass and a fifth goal in his last four Ligue 1 outings during Nice's 4-2 loss to Marseille at the weekend, Ventura remains unconvinced that the 27-year-old can be of any help to his side for the time being.
"As far as Balotelli is concerned, we've already talked about it in the past: when we were discussing renewing [the national team], we did touch on it, and the priority is picking players who are excelling," Ventura told a news conference. "The way of judging this is not whether Balotelli is scoring goals, the problems are elsewhere -- the rest of Balotelli.
"We need to consider the 360 degrees of Balotelli, but right now our priority is qualifying and then we will have a further four to five months to think about it. I can't put the World Cup on the line right now -- I need certainties."
Ventura appeared to be questioning Balotelli's mentality more than his qualities, but the forward dismissed claims made after the weekend's defeat that he had refused to take a penalty out of fear.
Alassane Plea instead took the spot kick -- and missed -- in a considered plan which Balotelli said had backfired.
"Don't tell me I was scared to shoot a penalty. I shoot penalty more difficult than this!" Balotelli wrote in an Instagram story, published by footmercato.net. "My action was to help a team mate in a bad night to rise again.. seriously who ever tell me I was scared means he never saw me play football.. idiot."
Valencia's Simone Zaza has also been linked with a return to the Italy national team, but Ventura said that he did not want to bring in a player who has "not even taken part in any training camps."
"We decided to go for tried and tested after losing Belotti," Ventura said. "There was not enough time to prepare these two games in just three days, but that's not a definitive no to Zaza."
Zaza, 26, has scored six goals in seven games for Valencia this season, but he has only been called up once by Ventura, featuring for just 10 minutes in games against Liechtenstein and Germany almost a year ago.