AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani has called on the officials to protect Mario Balotelli when he returns to the side for the Champions League meeting with Ajax on Wednesday night.
Balotelli still has one match of a three-game domestic ban to sit out, meaning he will miss Milan’s trip to Juventus on Sunday night, but he will lead the Rossoneri attack on as they look to follow their 2-0 win over Celtic with victory in Amsterdam.
Ajax coach Frank De Boer has already singled him out for particular attention -- warning his players that the Italy international “can decide a match” like Lionel Messi -- but Galliani hopes there will be no unnecessary provocation and that the referee will ensure fair play.
“Balotelli is an important player and he does not need to mature anymore because he’s already mature,” Galliani told reporters in Milan. “He just needs to moderate his behaviour -- but, at the same time, he needs to be protected like everybody else because I’ve seen fouls against him worthy of red cards that only get yellow.”
Balotelli has apologised for his latest suspension while at the same time calling for more protection, but Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri believes he must still learn to keep a lid on his temper.
“I think this ban had made him understand that he needs to behave differently,” Allegri said at a press conference. “He’s going to play [against Ajax] and all he has to think about is playing football and helping his team while respecting the opponents and the referees.”
Milan have endured a disappointing start the start to the season, taking just eight points from their first six Serie A games, while they only just managed to get the better of Celtic in their first Champions League encounter, but Galliani said he is “satisfied”.
“I hope the players returning from injury can help us move up a gear, and certainly when all our first-teamers are back, we’ll start marching on again,” he said.