Balotelli free to leave Brescia in January as Cellino insists he didn't offend striker after 'black' joke

The Serie A side’s president is hoping the former Manchester City forward will stay at the club after being subjected to racist abuse in recent weeks

Mario Balotelli could leave Brescia in the January transfer window after a turbulent six-month spell, according to club president Massimo Cellino.

After spending the second half of the 2018-19 campaign in Ligue 1 with Marseille, Balotelli joined Brescia on a free transfer on August 19, agreeing on a ‘multi-year contract’ with his boyhood club.

The Italian striker has since appeared in eight Serie A matches, scoring twice, but his exploits on the pitch have been overshadowed by a number of issues off it.

During a 2-1 defeat away to Hellas Verona on November 3, Balotelli was subjected to racist abuse from a section of the home supporters and had to be stopped from walking off the pitch.

The 29-year-old condemned the actions of Verona supporters after the match, insisting there will always be a “few idiots” in the stands, and received widespread backing from key figures in Italian football – including Inter and Napoli bosses Antonio Conte and Carlo Ancelotti.

Brescia head coach Fabio Grosso appears to have grown frustrated with Balotelli’s attitude in training, however, taking the decision to kick him out of a session due to a lack of effort ahead of a clash with Roma last weekend.

In the wake of the incident, club president Cellino made headlines for referring to Balotelli’s situation at Brescia as “black”, raising yet more controversy over possible racist undertones at the club.

Cellino has now admitted that the former Manchester City forward could secure a move away from Stadio Mario Rigamonti, having been saddened by recent events in Lombardy.

“Mario is sad because he can’t express the game of football,” Cellino told Le Iene. “For him to play in Serie A is a big sacrifice, maybe he thought it was simpler. 

“In January he is free to go away for free. Right now he has to choose the road up or down. He has to convince himself. I don’t want him to go away. If he leaves, we have both lost the bet.”

Cellino went on to deny aiming any racist comments at Balotelli last week, insisting his “joke” was taken out of context.

“I wanted to play it all down, but I did it too much,” he added.

“Me, racist? I’m Catholic, I can’t be. What did I mean by ‘he’s clearing himself up’? If you don’t like him, does it mean this boy must be cleared up to be accepted?

“I spoke with him yesterday, it was not me that offended him. When my joke was put in that way [by the media], I was more worried about Mario than anything else. My sentence was manipulated.

“I said bullsh*t, I do jokes too. After Verona, I told him to buy a can of paint, so he will make all these b*stards happy. They are a**holes that go to the stadium to offend.

“Mario is not a warrior who challenges everyone, it is not so. Mario must make people feel that he’s suffering.”

After being left out of Brescia’s 3-0 defeat at Roma, Balotelli was restored to the starting line-up for a home fixture against Atalanta on Saturday, but couldn’t inspire a more positive result.

Grosso’s men suffered another 3-0 loss, which leaves them bottom of Serie A after 13 fixtures, with a crucial trip to SPAL up next on Sunday.