Milan: AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has stirred up a fresh racist controversy by describing on-loan Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli as an "Italian who has taken a bit too much sun".
Berlusconi, who has completed 30 years as the owner of AC Milan, was celebrating the anniversary at the Serie A club's training ground over the weekend.
AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi
The 79-year-old former prime minister of Italy made the comments while discussing his wish for an all-Italian Milan squad.
"My dream is to have an all-Italian Milan. We've got many young Italians here at the moment. We are rich with individual talents, like (French forward Jeremy) Menez, and Balotelli, who is an Italian who has taken a bit too much sun," Berlusconi told the Italian media at the Milanello training complex here on Sunday.
Berlusconi tried to backtrack on his comments later during the media interaction by praising Balotelli's footballing and athletic abilities.
"Mario has unmatched athletic attributes. In training I see him take shots that break the net and he shows outstanding ball control. Several times I have said to him 'Mario, do you want to win? You need to score to win and to do that you have to get close to the goal'," he said.
"I'd gladly cut off his hair, though."
Berlusconi has created controversy in the past with his racist comments. He had described Barack Obama as "tanned" in 2008, shortly after the US presidential elections that year. He had repeated those comments the very next year after a meeting with Obama.
His brother Paolo Berlusconi had used the word 'n****' to describe Balotelli when he first signed for Milan in February 2013.
Balotelli has been the target of racist abuse throughout his career. The 25-year-old has copped a lot of adverse comments from opposition fans in Italy and while playing abroad with the national team. Several Croatian supporters threw bananas at him during a group stage match at Euro 2012.