Francesco Totti in line for World Cup comeback

Francesco Totti celebrates his second goal in the 3-0 win over Inter Milan at the weekend. Picture: Getty
Francesco Totti celebrates his second goal in the 3-0 win over Inter Milan at the weekend. Picture: Getty
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ITALY coach Cesare Prandelli has revealed he will try to tempt 37-year-old Francesco Totti out of international retirement if his sensational form continues up to the World Cup finals next summer.

Totti has been instrumental in Roma’s remarkable start to the Serie A season. The Giallorossi have won all seven league games so far, including a 3-0 thrashing of Inter Milan at the San Siro on Saturday with Totti scoring twice.

Totti retired from Azzurri duty shortly after helping Italy win the 2006 World Cup but remains on Prandelli’s radar.

The Italy boss said at yesterday’s press conference: “Totti is in fantastic form. His condition right now does make you reflect.

“If the World Cup was around the corner, I would have no doubts and would absolutely call him up. But we will evaluate the player’s condition one month prior to the World Cup.”

Prandelli, whose side have qualified from Group B with two games to spare, admits: “I have not spoken with him (about a possible return) There is no point in doing so eight months before the tournament. The priority is to arrive at the World Cup with 22 players that have to be in great condition.

“I believe the athletic form of the players will be crucial for the World Cup.”

Antonio Cassano, another forward who used to be a fixture in Italy’s attack, has also raised his form lately and scored one goal and set up two others when Parma beat Sassuolo 3-1 Sunday.

Cassano has not featured for Italy since he helped the squad reach the final of last year’s European Championship.

“Antonio played one of his best matches in recent years yesterday, so he’s clearly very motivated,” Prandelli said. “A month before the World Cup we’ll evaluate everyone’s physical condition, and without forgetting the group of players that helped us qualify, I’ll make a definitive decision.”

Prandelli also defended his code of ethics after being criticised for calling up Mario Balotelli following the temperamental striker’s latest outburst.

On Sunday, Balotelli finished serving a three-match ban with AC Milan for insulting and intimidating a referee in Serie A.

“If there was (one more match on the ban) Balotelli would not be here. Period. There’s nothing to discuss,” Prandelli said. “I’ve never called up a player that is banned.

“He’s one of the best players we have. I decided to call him up because that’s our way to handle these things, to look each other in the eye in the changing room, discuss it and agree it will never happen again. We’ve six or seven months to show that we’re ready and mature enough to handle the pressure of a World Cup.”

Prandelli left Balotelli off the squad for a friendly against the United States last year when he was suspended for four matches for his stomp on Tottenham’s Scott Parker while the forward was with Manchester City.

“I’m tired of these crusades against Balotelli,” Prandelli said. “When everyone is against somebody I like to defend that person. Despite all the problems, here we are, still together and we can still do a lot together.”

While Italy have already qualified for next year’s World Cup, the Azzurri convened for training ahead of their final two fixtures against Denmark and Armenia, and one forward who was called up after a long absence was Giuseppe Rossi, the United States-born striker who was bothered by injuries for the last two years.

However, Rossi has some aches and pains and Prandelli said he would need to evaluate his condition before deciding if he can play. Midfielder Daniele De Rossi was also immediately sent home with a left thigh injury.