Italy coach Marcello Lippi has defended his decision to leave Sampdoria striker Antonio Cassano out of his squad for the upcoming two FIFA World Cup qualifiers.
Despite notching 10 goals and 15 assists in Serie A this season, Cassano, who was in the squad for UEFA Euro 2008, continues to be overlooked by Lippi.
"I don't need to give any explanation regarding my team selection," Lippi said, when asked about Cassano's omission following the first training session in Coverciano today. "I have my own ideas and I don't need to explain them.
"It's not because I'm arrogant, but I'd rather work with those that are here."
Cassano's career has been turbulent despite him being only 26. Deemed a prodigy at Bari, he became labelled an 'enfant terrible' for frequent shows of petulance which included spats with former Roma coach Fabio Capello and on-pitch arguments with referees, opponents and even team-mates.
He seemed to have left the bad times in the past when he earned a place in former Italy coach Roberto Donadoni's European Championship squad.
A return for the games against Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland seemed likely, particularly with Bayern Munich forward Luca Toni and Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino sidelined through injury, but he has been snubbed since Lippi took charge for a second time after Euro 2008.
Cassano's Sampdoria team-mate Giampaolo Pazzini, who is in Lippi's 23-man squad, said: "Cassano is a very strong player, but it is Lippi who makes the decision and it has to be respected."
Pazzini could make his debut in Podgorica when the Azzurri play Montenegro on Saturday night.
He has scored 11 goals in 12 appearances since joining Samp from Fiorentina in January.
"The selection is the greatest source of satisfaction," the 24-year-old said. "Now I will try to keep hold of this shirt."
Lippi added: "When Gilardino got injured, the first player that came to mind was Pazzini."
As well as Pazzini, Lippi called up two other debutants, Salvatore Bocchetti of Genoa and Marco Motta of Roma.
"I want to gradually integrate youngsters into this squad. I asked the old guard to give me a hand in teaching them what the Nazionale is about.
"I promised [Under-21 coach Pierluigi] Casiraghi I would leave him the players who earned their place in the European Championships, but seeing as the Azzurrini are having a friendly this week, I called a few up.
"Bocchetti and Motta are doing very well, but there are also others who are impressing me at the moment.
"Among them are Davide Santon, but I considered it best to let him go through the process of the international scene and so I think he should start from the Under-21 side."
A home fixture in Bari against Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland, who are level with the World champions at the top of Group Eight, follows on Wednesday next week.
"So far we have done well," Lippi said. "We have collected 10 points in four games.
"But there's another team, Ireland, who have done the same as we have. I think the Irish will be our main rivals to finish top of our group."
Source: PA Sport