'Balotelli's black skin sees him judged harshly'

The striker’s agent Mino Raiola feels Italian football is not ready for a black player as strong as the 25-year-old, who is on loan from Liverpool, and wants him at Euro 2016

Mario Balotelli would not be judged as harshly if he was white, according to his agent Mino Raiola, who insists racism remains a major problem in Italian football.

The striker, who is on loan at AC Milan from Liverpool but has not featured since September due to a groin injury, has received criticism throughout his career due to a percieved lack of discipline and inconsistency.

But Raiola feels Balotelli’s treatment in his homeland is due to the colour of his skin, telling Tuttosport: “People judge Mario too much. He lives in a country that is not ready to have such a strong black player.

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“Italy is light-years behind other countries in that aspect. There is racism in football. Some of it is unconscious, but black players have to do twice as much as others to prove themselves.”

Despite Balotelli’s continuing struggles with form and fitness, Raiola is adamant his client deserves to go to Euro 2016.

“[Italy coach Antonio] Conte should call up Mario because he is the best Italian striker,” he added. “Enzo Bearzot called up Paolo Rossi in 1982 despite his inactivity and we went on to win the World Cup.

“I am convinced that Mario will win over Conte with his performances and his goals at Milan.”

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