Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has spoken of being "astonished and disappointed" to discover that a tour he was given of Naples was conducted by members of powerful organised crime syndicates.
Balotelli, 20, has hit the headlines this year as much for his off-pitch escapades as his performances for Manchester City on it and the latest story involving 'Super Mario' is regarding an unknowing encounter with Naples' renowned clans.
The Italy international has been named in a police report, which describes how he was shown around the city in June 2010 by members of powerful organised crime syndicates, namely Salvatore Silvestri of the Lo Russo clan and Biagio Esposito of the Scissionisti clan.
But Balotelli insists he was shocked to find out the identities and occupations of his tour guides.
"I had absolutely no idea who those people were," Balotelli said. "That day in Naples there were many people around me. I am astonished and disappointed, especially for the effect this news story could have on my family."
Balotelli walked around the notorious Scampia neighbourhood of Naples, but sources close to the player suggest he merely wanted to take in the places made famous by award-winning Italian film Gomorra, described on IMDb as "a contemporary Neapolitan mob drama that exposes Italy's criminal underbelly."
The former Inter Milan star's agent, Mino Raiola, has also - not for the first time this season - spoken out in defence of his client's actions.
"Balotelli has never had any rapport with organised crime," Raiola told Football Italia. "I will not confirm or deny he made this trip, because I don't know what actually happened.
"If, and I repeat if, Mario went to Scampia then it was because he was curious about these tragically famous areas. He certainly did not know that the people accompanying him were tied to the clans.
"There are many people around the world of football and it's impossible to know who everyone you talk to really is."