AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said on Feb. 22 he hopes fans of city rival Inter will give former striker Mario Balotelli a “normal” welcome when the sides meet in a hotly-anticipated derby on the weekend.
The Milan derby is one of the most fiercely-contested in Italy, but the match on Feb. 24 has been given special significance after Balotelli’s recent signing for the Rossoneri from Manchester City.
Prior to playing in the Premier League, the controversial Italy striker was on the books at Inter.
“I hope fans will give him a normal welcome,” said Galliani.
“We didn’t tear him away from Inter, but from Manchester City, so I hope he won’t suffer any kind of abuse.”
Although Balotelli was a success with the Nerazzurri, where he won the treble of Serie A title, Italian Cup and Champions League under coach Jose Mourinho in 2010, he is expected to be given a hostile reception.
During his time with Inter, Balotelli admitted to having been a fan of AC Milan.
After playing in the 2010 Champions League semifinal against Barcelona, the striker courted controversy by throwing his jersey on the ground at the final whistle after being booed by his own fans.
Some supporters tried to attack him after the game.
And in the final months of his time with the club he was photographed in a cafe in the city wearing the famous red and black stripes of Milan.
Whether Balotelli will celebrate if he scores against his old club remains to be seen.
Galliani, meanwhile, tried to play down the significance of the game despite the stakes being high for both sides.
After a disastrous start to the campaign, resurgent Milan now sit in third place on 44 points, 11 behind leaders Juventus and one ahead of Inter, who have struggled of late.
“It’s a big game, but not decisive,” added Galliani.