AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has apologised for calling Mario Balotelli "a rotten apple", but denied any knowledge of the club’s interest in the Manchester City striker.
Following Balotelli’s training ground bust-up with City manager Roberto Mancini earlier in January, links between the Italy international and the Rossoneri intensified, with speculation mounting that the player could move to the San Siro during this month’s transfer window.
However, at the time Berlusconi laughed off those reports, saying Balotelli’s sort was not wanted in the Milan dressing room.
“If you place a bad apple in the dressing room then it can infect all of the others,” he told Antenna 3. “Balotelli is someone who I would never accept in the Milan squad.”
Yet on Tuesday morning Berlusconi said that his original comments were misrepresented and that he had not meant to slur Balotelli’s name.
"What I said was based on the fact that I feel positive people are useful in the changing room,” he told Sky Italia. "I was not referring to Balotelli and I apologise if it was taken as a slur against him.
“Could he still come to Milan? No one from my club has held any talks with him, and neither [Adriano] Galliani (Milan vice president) or I have identified him as a transfer target."
Berlusconi’s latest comments came after Galliani all but closed the door on any new arrivals this month.
“Balotelli? I’ve always said that if one forward left the club during the transfer window, as has happened with [Alexandre] Pato, then things would remain the same,” he told La Gazzetta dello Sport. “We have five forwards for two to three places. That’s enough.”
Berlusconi, however, offered a different opinion to Galliani’s, stating his desire to bring in additions to the Milan squad.
"I am pestering Galliani because there are a few players I would like us to sign, ones we could bring in by the end of January,” he said. "I won't name names, I've been told not to. Galliani told me, 'president, don't name names if you want us to succeed’."