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Team mate defends Balotelli

NO PROBLEM: Mario Balotelli

ITALY MIDFIELDER Daniele de Rossi has leapt to the defence of team mate Mario Balotelli and rejected claims that the Manchester City striker is a disruptive influence in the team.

21-year-old Balotelli scored the first penalty as the Azzurri progressed to the semi-finals at England’s expense and he is expected to keep his place in the starting XI when they take on Germany tonight (June 28). However, there have been suggestions that the striker, who hits headlines as much for his eccentric behaviour off the pitch as his footballing ability, is a negative influence on the dressing room and de Rossi was seen shouting at him during the quarter-final clash.

Speaking to the media ahead of their crunch meeting with the Germans, the Roma vice-captain explained: “Mario is not a difficult character at all. We treat him as one of the squad, nothing more, nothing less.

"There is no need for us to have a word with him, that is up to the coach, and we don't need to make any extra effort with him.

"On Sunday I shouted at him at half-time but that has happened thousands of times in my career with players. But there are no problems with him and there have never been any. He is a very good player."

His club manager Roberto Mancini had previously stated that there is no point trying to talk with Balotelli as he simply doesn’t listen and national team boss Cesare Prandelli admitted he has adopted a similar approach: “I have no real problem with him. It is trying to work out what goes on in the head of a 21-year-old young man. In terms of his behaviour, mentality and psychology, he has changed radically with us.

"There are no problems with communication. I'm just curious to see what he is feeling, what sacrifices he is prepared to make to become a great footballer."

Balotelli became the first black player to represent Italy at a major tournament when he started their 1-1 draw with Spain on June 10. He has scored just once at the Euros so far with a volley against Republic of Ireland.

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