Mario Balotelli has written an open letter explaining why he received a guided tour of Naples backstreets by members of organised crime.
“Around a year ago I was invited to Naples to pick up the Golden Boy award and stopped for a few days on vacation,” wrote the Manchester City and Italy striker.
“I was taken to see many wonderful places in Naples, like Piazza del Plebiscito, but I also asked to visit those areas off the beaten track. Having seen the film Gomorra, I was amazed by this whole other reality that exists.
“I wanted to see for myself and understand the serious problems in the suburbs of Naples that the film talked about. It is a very different reality to the one I grew up with and experience now.
“Some prefer to turn their heads and pretend nothing is happening, but I am not like that. When I went to Brazil in 2008 I asked to visit the favelas and poorest quarters of Bahia so I could meet and talk to people, then play football in the streets with the local kids.
“In Naples one morning I visited the Quartieri Spagnoli area, where I remember playing football with the children in the street, then crossed the Scampia quarter. After a while I asked to leave, because I realised it was a dangerous situation.
“I did not know that police were investigating or watching me that day, nor was I ever called to testify. Frankly, I don't understand how a statement from a ‘confidential informer' could be handed to the newspapers. Only in Italy can this sort of thing happen.
“I am profoundly disgusted by the fact my actions in good faith were used against me in this way. I realise I am naive, but linking my name to the betting scandal as well is absolutely too much. I have nothing to do with betting, let alone organised crime.
“I am absolutely calm and invite the police to do all the investigating they need, because I have nothing to hide. I have sent my lawyers to punish those who want to use my name and suggest I'm involved in anything illegal.
“Finally, I think at this delicate moment for Italian football we don't need further controversy, but rather focus on resolving the real problems.”