Italy are flying back from Brazil tonight with Mario Balotelli sporting a new hairstyle and visibly distant from his teammates.
The Azzurri left their Mangaratiba training camp for the airport in Rio de Janeiro, where they’ll fly direct to Rome and then some of the squad will catch a connecting flight to Milan.
There still appears to be a great deal of tension within the squad, as the players were silent when walking past reporters.
Balotelli was first off the team bus and sported a new bleached hairstyle, as he went to the hairdresser this morning.
It is reported the Milan striker seemed distant from his teammates and even on the plane preferred to sit with his fiancee Fanny Neguesha.
The other players sat in their own area with the wives and girlfriends in a different section, so Balotelli was the only one to break rank.
Meanwhile, reports are growing of a row between Balotelli and Cesare Prandelli at half-time in the game with Uruguay, which prompted the Coach to substitute him.
Talk of a split within the Azzurri camp is also increasing, especially after Balotelli was the only player to sit on the team bus while the rest waited in the locker room for Prandelli to finish his Press conference.
It’s reported someone was later sent to fetch Mario and bring him back to be with the others.
Balotelli responded to criticism with a heartfelt message on his Twitter account today, confirming he was “sad, angry and disappointed with myself” for his World Cup performances.
“But you want to pour all the blame on me this time just because Mario Balotelli gave everything for the Nazionale and didn’t get anything wrong (in terms of behaviour), so you’re seeking another excuse because Mario Balotelli’s conscience is clear and he is ready to go forward stronger than ever with head held high.”
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £11,000 to be won monthly!