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Bonucci: Mario must work hard for Italy return

Balotelli is yet to feature under Antonio Conte, with his last appearance for the national team coming in their World Cup exit to Uruguay in June 2014.

The striker's form for Liverpool has done little to suggest he will be back any time soon, but Bonucci can see the benefit of a fully-fit and a hungry Balotelli in the squad.

"Mario is not in a good period of his career," said the Juventus defender. "However, he was an asset in the last European Championship. 

"He is welcome in this team, but he has to be part of our group. This team is devoted to hard work."

Bonucci was also full of praise for Conte – his former boss at Juve – for instilling a stronger defensive philosophy to Italy's play since replacing Cesare Prandelli.

"Our defensive line is so strong thanks to our coaches," he added. "He has introduced us to playing with a new defensive style. 

"When we are organised on the pitch, it is easier to play in defence. In addition, we know each other very well. We have played a lot together."