The 79-year-old former Prime Minister of Italy is this weekend celebrating the 30-year anniversary of his 1986 takeover of Serie A giants Milan, and made his comments about Balotelli – the son of Ghanaian immigrants – during a scheduled visit to the Milanello training complex.
When asked if Balotelli, who has made only 10 league appearances this season, was a valuable player in Sinisa Mihajlovic’s squad, he said in quotes carried by Tuttosport: “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.”
He added: “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’.”
In 2008 Berlusconi described the United States’ president-elect Barack Obama as “young, handsome and tanned” while his brother Paolo Berlusconi used the word ‘n****’ to describe Balotelli when he first signed for Milan in February 2013.
Silvio Berlusconi’s latest gaffe has not been given prominence in the sports pages of Italy’s leading newspapers, with Tuttosport making reference to the politician’s attempts to “backtrack on his joke” by praising Balotelli’s ability.
Balotelli has regularly been the target of racist abuse from opposition fans in Italy and while playing abroad with the national team – a section of Croatia supporters threw bananas at him during a group-stage match at Euro 2012.
The former Manchester City striker has scored only two goals in all competitions for Milan this term and has not started a league game since September.