VERONA mayor Flavio Tosi has made the startling claim that controversial AC Milan star Mario Balotelli provokes racists.
Tosi, a member of the anti-immigration Lega Nord party, made the comments as Balotelli's Milan travel to Verona for their opening Serie A game on Saturday.
Verona fans have been punished for racist behaviour in the past and fears have been raised of a repeat incident.
"Will I reassure Balotelli about coming to Verona? There are two aspects here," Tosi said.
"One is the fans, the other is the club that has always worked hard to improve the behaviour of the fans and if someone acts like a cretin, he'll be in the minority.
"However, if Balotelli provoked people a bit less, then it would be even better. There are many black players, but not all of them stoke the ire of the opposition fans and most have no problems.
"Balotelli is very good at making himself unlikeable."