Mario Balotelli was always a controversial figure during his time with Manchester City, you don’t need me to tell you that. During his time in the Premier League, it was often this spiky personality detracted from one other factor about the Italian international - he was an insanely talented football player.
Ever since his move to AC Milan, that is a point he has been proving.
The striker scored 12 times in the 13 games he played in the second half of the Serie A season - helping to fire the Rossoneri to a third place finish which looked very unlikely earlier in the campaign.
A self-proclaimed boyhood Milan fan, he took to playing for the club with aplomb - and now hopes are high of a controversy free and goal frenzied campaign in Serie A in 2013-14.
But just before the start of the new Serie A season controversy has struck, for once not of Balotelli’s own doing.
Milan open their campaign this weekend against Hellas Verona, the newly promoted team welcoming the club to Stadio Marc’Antonio Bentegodi.
Milan have recently become one of the forces in the fight against racism - with Kevin Prince-Boateng and Kevin Constant at the forefront of the fight against the abhorrent behaviour of a minority of Italian football fans.
Balotelli has also been a vociferous supporter of the anti-racism movement in the past.
But the mayor of Verona does not see it that way.
The Verona fans have a bad historical reputation for racist incidents and have been punished for similar behaviour in the past.
And Flavio Tosi, the Mayor of Verona has made some rather controversial statements on the subject yesterday:
“Will I reassure Balotelli about coming to Verona? There are two aspects here. One is the fans, the other is the club that has always worked hard to improve the behaviour of the fans other than those four idiots. If someone acts like a cretin, he’ll be in the minority. However, if Balotelli provoked people a bit less, then it would be even better. There are many black players, but not all of them stoke the ire of the opposition fans. Most have no problems. Balotelli is very good at making himself unlikeable.”
It seems his comments are certainly a little bit convoluted. At one point he suggests he is as against racism as the next person, before claiming racist abuse hurled at Balotelli could be simply because he is not a popular person.
Now I don’t like Balotelli, but in no way does that excuse racist behaviour.
We just hope Balotelli puts away a goal or two on Saturday to prove a point to his detractors.
What do you make of Tosi’s comments?
image: © drabikpany