Mario Balotelli being without a club once again as a new season approaches is "not normal", says Italy head coach Roberto Mancini.
Balotelli is reportedly close to joining hometown club Brescia after negotiations to join Brazilian giants Flamengo broke down.
He scored eight goals in 15 appearances for Marseille last term, having impressed in an early stint with their Ligue 1 rivals Nice, but budgetary constraints at the Stade Velodrome left the 29-year-old once again seeking pastures new.
Mancini managed Balotelli at Inter and Manchester City and ended his four-year international exile by recalling the striker when appointed as Azzurri boss in 2018.
Nevertheless, some exasperation with his one-time protege was evident in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport.
"At 29, and for the second year in a row, less than 10 days before the start of the championship, he still didn't have the absolute certainty of a team," Mancini said.
"He didn’t prepare, he didn't train regularly. He must reflect, it is not normal."
On whether Brescia might be the right option in terms of Balotelli getting back into the Italy fold, he replied: "Whether it will be a good solution does not depend on Brescia but on him.
"Perhaps by playing closer to home he will feel more comfortable but it is not [guaranteed to] be enough.
"I love him, but for him I can't do anything anymore. He must think that he is in the middle of his career and that he still has much to give – if he wants."
For now, Mancini's hopes in attack for Italy are far more likely to rest on Moise Kean, who completed a surprise switch from Juventus to Everton during the close season.
Although he views the transfer as a disappointing development for Serie A, the 54-year-old feels it can ultimately benefit his national team.
"It is a pity because he is Italian and an international," he said. "But he goes to play in a beautiful and difficult league, at a club where they have not won for years and have to make the team competitive again.
"This can help him grow; my sorrow is more personal. But by now we know – it is no longer the football of 20 years ago, when everyone came to play in Italy, the most beautiful championship where they earned the most."
On whether Serie A should aspire to be more like the Premier League, Mancini added: "We can't expect the rhythm of the Premier League, that's just their thing. They have always been used to it – much faster and with fewer interruptions.
"With us, the pace can grow and we must understand that technical quality is essential. But we are making progress."