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 By Ben Gladwell

Andrea Pirlo to prolong international career, says Italy coach Antonio Conte

Andrea Pirlo has told Italy coach Antonio Conte that he will be available for international selection in future.

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The Juventus midfielder announced prior to the World Cup that he would quit international football after this summer's tournament in Brazil.

However, following former Juve coach Conte's appointment as successor to Cesare Prandelli, that decision appears to have been put on ice.

Pirlo, 35, flourished under Conte at the Bianconeri, helping them win three consecutive Serie A titles.

He can now expect to be a key component of the new Azzurri coach's side as they aim to qualify for Euro 2016, with Conte confirming on Sunday that Pirlo has not retired.

"I wanted to find out if the fire was still burning inside him and he's a battler. He has given me his availability and that is all I need," Conte told RaiSport.

Antonio Conte could do well in charge of Italy, but failure would be devastating.
Conte, 45, left Juventus this summer after winning three consecutive Serie A titles.

Conte was unable to call Pirlo into his first squad selection to face Netherlands and Norway after the midfielder was ruled out for a month with a hip injury.

He may return to the Italy fold for Euro 2016 qualifiers against Azerbaijan and Malta next month now he has assured Conte he will extend an Italy career which already totals 111 caps.

Meanwhile, Conte has praised the support he has received from Serie A clubs since he was appointed by the Azzurri last month.

The combustible coach did not see eye-to-eye with some of his colleagues during his Juve years, but that has now changed.

"When you're rivals, you can never be friends," Conte said. "But now I have received fantastic support from them. They see me in a different role now and our relationship can be friendly. I'm ready to collaborate with them now."

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