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Italy coach Antonio Conte warns Balotelli: 'The man is more important than the footballer'

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MILAN — Mario Balotelli has some work to do to earn the respect of Italy coach Antonio Conte.

Conte tells the Gazzetta dello Sport that he's not sure Balotelli's decision to move back to England is positive or not, "but I do know that whoever joins the national team must then deserve to stay there."

PHOTO: FILE- In this file photo dated  Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Italy's Mario Balotelli, right, kicks the ball over Uruguay's Martin Caceres during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. England's Liverpool soccer club announced Monday Aug. 25, 2014, it has completed the signing of Italy striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan, FILE)
FILE- In this file photo dated Tuesday, June 24, 2014, Italy's Mario Balotelli, right, kicks the ball over Uruguay's Martin Caceres during the group D World Cup soccer match between Italy and Uruguay at the Arena das Dunas in Natal, Brazil. England's Liverpool soccer club announced Monday Aug. 25, 2014, it has completed the signing of Italy striker Mario Balotelli from AC Milan. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan, FILE)

Balotelli, Italy's most talented and most temperamental forward, transferred from AC Milan to Liverpool on Monday.

Conte says "the man is more important than the footballer. ... Talent is secondary. First you've got to sacrifice yourself for the squad."

Balotelli was criticized severely after Italy was eliminated after the first round of the World Cup under Cesare Prandelli, who then resigned.

Conte, who led Juventus to the last three Serie A titles, is a strict disciplinarian.

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