Brescia striker Mario Balotelli returned to his hometown team this season. AFP/VNA Photo
MILAN — Brescia president Massimo Cellino came under fire on Monday after he described Mario Balotelli's difficult situation at the promoted Serie A club as "black".
Balotelli was dropped for Brescia's 3-0 defeat at Roma on Sunday after clashing with new club coach Fabio Grosso for his lack of commitment during training during the week.
"What do you want me to say about him (Balotelli)?" Cellino said on the sidelines of a Lega Serie A assembly on Monday.
"That he is black, he is working to clear things up, but he has a lot of difficulties."
Cellino was making a play on the Italian words 'nero' which means 'black' or 'gloomy' and 'schiarirsi' to 'lighten up' or 'clear up'.
Brescia later said in a statement that Cellino's comments were "obviously a paradoxical joke, clearly misunderstood, made in an attempt to defuse excessive media exposure and intended to protect the player himself".
Balotelli, who was born in Sicily but adopted and raised just outside Brescia, agreed a three-year deal with the Serie B champions after being released by Marseille last June.
But it has been a difficult start to the campaign for the 29-year-old with two goals scored in seven matches.
Earlier this month the former Inter Milan, Manchester City and Liverpool striker was also targeted by racist chanting during defeat at Hellas Verona, where he threatened to walk off the pitch.
Cellino, meanwhile, said that the striker was not to blame if the team are bottom of the table fighting for top-flight survival.
"We cannot think that a player alone will save the squad, that would be wrong for the team," continued Cellino.
"I signed him because he's 1.90m, he's an animal and he is still of an age to give something on the football pitch, not on social media.
"But he cannot be made the scapegoat for the difficult situation in Brescia. If we continue to talk about Balotelli, we hurt him and we hurt ourselves." — AFP