Napoli’s director of communications has demanded an apology from the Guardian for referring to Naples as a ‘Mafia stronghold’.

A transfer rumour round-up on the Guardian’s website has caused a storm in Italy for suggesting that Naples is run by the Mafia.

The column was reporting on Napoli’s alleged interest in Manchester United forward Danny Welbeck and an attempt at humour backfired spectacularly.

The controversial section reads:

“Napoli sporting director Riccardo Bigon has let Welbeck’s agent know that Napoli are interested in signing up his client, but with Everton and Tottenham also interested, the club from one of Italy’s mafia strongholds will need to make Manchester United and Welbeck himself an offer they can’t refuse.”

Neapolitans have taken to social media to lambast the choice of words as a lazy stereotype based on prejudice and some Napoli fans have even threatened to sue the Guardian.

An official statement from Napoli has called for a full apology from Guardian sports editor Ian Prior for any offence caused by the article.

“I know it can happen that articles aren’t read carefully before being published or maybe Mr. Prior, who oversees these pages, didn’t fully understand what was being said,” Napoli director of communications Nicola Lombardo writes.

“If that isn’t the case then our consternation would be extraordinary in reading a cliche that is so obsolete, vulgar and stupid as to pair Naples and the Mafia.

“Would millions of English tourists come to Italy, and even Naples, every year on holiday if they thought it was a ‘Mafia stronghold’ where there could be shootings in the street and muggings on every corner?

“I am awaiting, in the name of the Neapolitans and all Italians, an apology. 

“You see, Mr. Prior, its like us believing that all people from Newcastle are ignorant gym freaks and sociopaths because that’s how they are represented on the show ‘Geordie Shore’ on MTV. Naturally, we don’t think that.”

In other news, 'I love very much': £20m Man City player in awe of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool