Updates from Tuesday, June 3
Joe Wright of Goal.com has the latest on Balotelli:
However, Castellacci insists the 23-year-old had simply been struggling as a result of being overworked during the final few weeks of the season and is fully confident he will be part of Cesare Prandelli's plans in Brazil from the off.
"He can play," Castellacci was quoted as saying by Milan's official website. "He is training hard. He had an overload of work but we are managing it.
"He is at the disposal of the head coach and is ready to play."
Italy’s star striker Mario Balotelli faces a race to be fit for their World Cup opener with England after suffering with minor muscular issues in his legs.
The Azzurri team doctor Enrico Castellaci told La Gazzetta dello Sport (h/t Joe Wright of Goal.com) that the AC Milan forward was suffering with fatigue when he arrived at the Italian camp and the problem has gotten worse due to over exertion:
He's having a few teething problems with his flexors and adductors.
He was struggling a little when he arrived at Coverciano. They've [his muscles] been overworked these last few days and that's affected them.
The news will come as a concern for Cesare Prandelli, who would have almost certainly been banking on Balotelli to lead the line in Italy’s opening game on July 14. Whilst the Italy boss does have some ample back-up options in his squad in the form of Ciro Immobile and Antonio Cassano, the Milan striker remains Italy’s best option in attack.
Balotelli has insisted that he expects his team to have no problems against England though, as noted here by Football_Tweet:
Mario Balotelli on England's World Cup chances. pic.twitter.com/K66arKXibM— Football__Tweet (@Football__Tweet) May 30, 2014
After finishing as the joint leading scorer at Euro 2012, per BBC Sport, it’s clear that Balotelli relishes these big games on the international stage, and without his presence up front, the Azzurri will definitely be worse off.
The Milan man didn't feature in Italy's recent 0-0 draw with the Republic of Ireland, but BT Sport's Italian expert James Horncastle insisted that's only because Prandelli knows exactly what Balotelli is capable of:
@Uzelly__ Balotelli is one of the players he knows most about. Needs to assess Rossi's fitness and to give Immobile a 1st start— James Horncastle (@JamesHorncastle) May 30, 2014
But it now transpires his omission may have been down to fitness concerns. Immobile and Cassano are both coming into the tournament off the back of strong seasons with their clubs, but they do not have the major tournament pedigree that the former Manchester City man has, despite being just 23 years old.
With rumours circulating that suggest Balotelli could be on his way out of the San Siro this summer, per John Cross of The Mirror, he will be desperate to impress in the World Cup.
He's enjoyed a prosperous individual season for Milan—netting times in 14 times in 30 appearances in Serie A, per WhoScored.com— in what was a difficult season overall for the Rossoneri. You suspect that if he can continue that prolific form in Brazil and showcase a level of maturity that occasionally escapes him, then there will be no shortage of potential suitors for the player.
That in itself should galvanise Balotelli ahead of the Brazil showpiece, and although these reported fitness issues remain a worry, it’s difficult to anticipate them keeping Balotelli from playing on the game’s biggest stage.