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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Italy 'not dependent' on Mario Balotelli

Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini has dismissed suggestions the Azzurri are dependent on striker Mario Balotelli, who was injured for Friday's draw with Denmark.

Cesare Prandellli's side maintained their unbeaten run in the World Cup qualifying group stage, but required Alberto Aquilani's injury-time equaliser in Denmark to do so.

Chiellini admitted Balotelli is an important part of Italy's setup, although he stopped short of calling the 2006 World Cup winners a one-man team.

"Nobody is indispensable," he told reporters. "This is and always will be Balotelli’s Italy, even if it is possible to play without him.

"Mario has been unlucky because he picked up an injury in the first training session and then had a fever. I do not care if he annoys someone, that is the story of his career."

The Juventus defender also commented on rumours suggesting Italy coach Prandelli could replace Antonio Conte in Turin after the World Cup.

"I think it is fantasy football, as we are so tied to [Antonio] Conte at Juventus and Prandelli for Italy," Chiellini added. "We are carrying out a good project with him here [for Italy], but everything else is really fantasy football."

Juve midfielder Paul Pogba has also been linked with a move away from the Bianconeri and Chiellini, like his club, has conceded it will be difficult to keep hold of the Frenchman.

"The statements about Pogba are nothing striking. In the face of a big offer, no player is not for sale," he said. "It does not mean that Juventus have put Pogba on the market -- he'd have been sold this summer if that was the case.

"I hope that Paul stays with us for a long time, and I am sure he will soon renew his contract. But as for the future, no one can safely say."


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