Patrick Vieira insists there was never any chance of him replacing Unai Emery at Arsenal as he and Nice are "100 per cent" committed to one another.

Former Arsenal captain Vieira has been linked with the Gunners job since Arsene Wenger's departure in 2018, but Mikel Arteta instead took over after Emery was sacked in November.

The Frenchman says there were no talks with Arsenal on this occasion, although the Nice coach is adamant he would have turned down any offer regardless.

"No, but there is no place in my mind to have those kind of conversations," Vieira told the Daily Mail. "My focus is here [at Nice]. This project suits who I am and what I want to achieve.

"This rumour about the Arsenal job is not something that bothered me. I don't know what the future holds but that is why I don't want to put my brain somewhere that doesn't exist.

"This club knows I want to stay and I know they want me to stay, 100 per cent."

However, Vieira said he discussed the possibility of taking over from Wenger before he became Nice coach.

"It was just a conversation about my situation, where I am, what is the next step," he said. "Nothing came of it."

Vieira moved to Nice from New York City in June 2018 and found former Manchester City team-mate Mario Balotelli in his squad in France.

The Italy international, having starred at Nice prior to Vieira's arrival, failed to score under the new coach and departed for Marseille in the next transfer window.

Vieira added of Balotelli: "Mario's mindset was difficult for a collective sport.

"The philosophy I wanted to put in place, the togetherness and work ethic I wanted to build, it was difficult for me to work with a player like Mario.

"It was really difficult for both of us to work together, so we decided to go different ways."

Italian police have handed a five-year ban from sports events to a supporter who racially abused Mario Balotelli in Brescia's match at Hellas Verona.

The fan has not been named, with Italian media describing him as a 38-year-old from the city of Agrigento.

Widespread reports in Italy said the police commissioner of Verona, Ivana Petricca, imposed the ban after an investigation into the events of November 3, when Balotelli reported hearing monkey chants.

Italy international Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi, where he scored a late consolation goal for his team.

The abuse led to Serie A ordering a one-match partial stadium closure for Hellas Verona, while the club handed their head ultra an 11-year ban for defending the discriminatory chants.

Italian news agency ANSA said video footage and testimonies from those at the game led to the identification of the supporter, whose ban will apply to all sport events in Italy and within the European Union.

The man will be barred from parts of the city of Verona on football match days, ANSA said.

Lazio have avoided serious sanctions for racial abuse directed at Brescia's Mario Balotelli by their supporters after Lega Serie A confirmed the club have been handed a €20,000 fine.

Balotelli scored the opening goal in Sunday's encounter, before Lazio went on to claim a 2-1 victory thanks to Ciro Immobile's brace after Andrea Cistana had been sent off.

Shortly after Balotelli's goal, a warning was read out over the stadium's public address system after chants appeared to be targeting the Italy international.

Balotelli hit out at those responsible in an Instagram post that accompanied a clip of his goal, with the striker writing: "Lazio fans that were today [Sunday] at the stadium, SHAME ON YOU #saynotoracism."

The league agrees the chants were of a discriminatory nature and have issued a punishment, though Lazio avoided harsher sanctions due to their assistance in the investigation.

A Lega Serie A statement on Wednesday read: "Lazio was penalised an amount of €20,000 for having its supporters, in the 21st and 29th minutes of the first half, emitting a chant of racial discrimination against a player of the opposing team, in addition to an insulting chant against the same player in the 21st, 29th and 42nd minutes of the first half, which led the referee to interrupt the game to make the announcement aimed at the termination of the aforementioned discriminatory chant.

"The transmission of more detailed elements has also been arranged by the federal prosecutor, both with regards to the actual positioning (sector or sub sector)…of the supporters within which the leaders of this chant were placed, also regarding the active collaboration of Lazio in identifying the subjects involved in this discriminatory event, for the purpose of the possible adoption of further measures by this judge regarding the incident, and in any case also in relation to the evaluation of the possible recidivism."

This was not the first occasion Balotelli has been the target of abuse since returning to hometown club Brescia at the start of the season.

In November, the former Manchester City star kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch after being subjected to monkey noises during a match against Hellas Verona.

Mario Balotelli has accused Lazio fans of racially abusing him during their club's win over Brescia in Serie A on Sunday.

Balotelli opened the scoring for Brescia but Ciro Immobile struck twice after Andrea Cistana's red card to turn it around for the visitors.

During the game, a warning was read out over the stadium's public address system after chants appeared to be aimed at Balotelli.

The Italy striker used social media after the match to hit out at Lazio supporters.

"[It] is a loss that hurt but we will come back stronger and we are on the right way!" He posted on Instagram with a clip of his goal.

"Lazio fans that were today at the stadium SHAME ON YOU! #saynotoracism."

It is not the first time former Milan and Manchester City striker Balotelli has been the target of abuse since he signed for hometown club Brescia at the start of this season.

Last November, Balotelli kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch after being subjected to monkey noises during a Serie A match against Hellas Verona.

In the same month, there was a controversy involving Brescia president Massimo Cellino, who said Balotelli is "black and is working on lightening up, but he is facing troubles".

The word 'nero' in Italian means 'black' but can also be used for 'gloomy'. Brescia defended Cellino's comments as "a paradoxical joke, clearly misunderstood, released in an attempt to defuse excessive media exposure and with intent to protect the player himself".

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin has insisted his organisation is not blind to the scourge of racism and will implement stronger sanctions on clubs and countries.

European football has been marred by a string of ugly episodes this season, from the monkey noises aimed at Inter striker Romelu Lukaku in a Serie A game against Cagliari to the racist abuse England players suffered during their Euro 2020 qualifier in Bulgaria.

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taison both resorted to kicking balls into the stands in separate incidents in Italy and Ukraine last month.

Anti-discrimination body Kick It Out characterised the €75,000 fine handed out to the Bulgarian Football Union as symptomatic of UEFA's weak deterrents and Ceferin admitted more must be done.

He told The Mirror: "I understand that the players are desperate because of the punishments and the incidents that are happening again and again.

"Of course you want say [to UEFA]: 'Go to hell!' I know. But I am not so naive to think that we've done all we can and now everything is finished. We haven't.

"We are trying and we care. We are not just some guys in Nyon sitting eating fancy food and driving Ferraris.

"We are ready to listen to criticism. Every week there is something - not just since Bulgaria, not since England, not since Cagliari. We've been listening.

"Every week we hear about some s*** happening around Europe. And we speak.

"I went recently to the European Union. We speak with governments. We are trying to do something."

Ceferin pledged to investigate avenues for tougher penalties and said UEFA will address its own imbalances.

"Our disciplinary committee and other committees should be more and more diverse," he said.

"We have to bring black members in and we have to bring in more women.

"I agree that sanctions will have to be harsher and harsher. And I'm sure we will. I cannot tell you more but we will rethink all the disciplinary regulation and diversity in the disciplinarian gravity.

"In the future, one of the governing bodies where this happens will have to have severe sanctions, I know."

But the Slovenian administrator stopped short of agreeing to competition bans, saying: "I know we have to do more. But tell me which club was thrown out of the Premier League? And you have incidents almost every week. Also in Italy.

"The media attention is their oxygen."

Brescia will allow Mario Balotelli to leave the club for free in January, according to the Serie A club's president Massimo Cellino.

Former Manchester City and Milan striker Balotelli signed for his hometown club Brescia – who sit bottom of Serie A – in August and has scored two goals in eight league appearances.

The 29-year-old, who played in his side's 3-0 defeat to Atalanta on Saturday, has endured a tumultuous return to Italy, with several incidents overshadowing his performances.

In an away Serie A clash with Hellas Verona last month, he kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch after being subjected to monkey chants by home supporters.

That was followed by a training ground spat with head coach Fabio Grosso, which saw him dropped ahead of the 3-0 loss to Roma on November 24.

In the wake of that incident, Cellino said Balotelli was "black and is working on lightening up, but he is facing troubles". The word 'nero' in Italian means black but can also be used for 'gloomy', as in a person's state of mind.

Cellino concedes Balotelli's time at the club has not gone to plan and says he will not stand in his way if he wants to leave next month.

"Mario is sad because he can't express the game of football," Cellino told Le Iene. "For him to play in Serie A is a big sacrifice; maybe he thought it was simpler. 

"In January he is free to go away for free. Right now, he has to choose the road up or down. He has to convince himself. I don't want him to go away. If he leaves, we have both lost the bet."

Cellino moved to play down his recent remarks about the striker, denying there were any racist undertones.

"I wanted to play it all down, but I did it too much," he added.

"Me, racist? I'm Catholic, I can't be. What did I mean by 'he's clearing himself up'? If you don't like him, does it mean this boy must be cleared up to be accepted?

"I spoke with him, it was not me that offended him. When my joke was put in that way [by the media], I was more worried about Mario than anything else. My comment was manipulated.

"I said b******t, I do jokes too. After Verona, I told him to buy a can of paint, so he will make all these b******s happy. They are a******s that go to the stadium to offend.

"Mario is not a warrior who challenges everyone, it is not so. Mario must make people feel that he's suffering."

Brescia have moved to diffuse comments made by president Massimo Cellino, in which he appears to make a racist remark about striker Mario Balotelli.

Cellino suggested Balotelli, who was left out of the squad for Sunday's Serie A clash with Roma after a training-ground spat with coach Fabio Grosso, is "black and is working on lightening up, but he is facing troubles".

The word 'nero' in Italian means black but can also be used for 'gloomy', as in a person's state of mind.

A club statement read: "Concerning the declarations released this afternoon by president Massimo Cellino, referring to our player Mario Balotelli, Brescia Calcio evidently deals with a paradoxical joke, clearly misunderstood, released in an attempt to defuse excessive media exposure and with intent to protect the player himself."

Balotelli has scored twice in seven Serie A appearances since joining his hometown club in August and was recently subjected to racist abuse during a match at Hellas Verona.

Cellino suggested Grosso should have handled the situation with Balotelli better but also believes the former Liverpool and Manchester City frontman needs to do his talking on the pitch.

He added: "My manager made a mistake last week. He spoke about Balotelli and not about the team. I am not the manager and this is not a press conference but I see I have to answer. 

"I signed Balotelli at the end of the transfer market. I didn't sign him for annual subscriptions or publicity. I thought he could be added value but due to this over-exposition we made him become a liability. So if you want to keep talking about Balotelli, you want to hurt him and ourselves.

"Maybe Balotelli gives more importance to social media than his own values. As a sportsman and a man. I haven't signed him for his social media, I did because he is 1.90 metre, he is an animal and still young enough to have a say in football. 

"If and when he will do it, he will on the pitch. He has to learn how to answer on the pitch. In that moment he will be a footballer again. In this moment he is far from it. I signed him dreaming he could be an added value, but I never thought he had to be the one saving our club. 

"I told him as I am telling you. It is too easy to use him as a scapegoat and this is why I sacked the previous coach. Because in this moment since he has arrived, Balotelli needed us to help him more than we needed him to help us.

"We should have done it before as now we are weaker and it will be harder to help him."

Mario Balotelli has been left out of Brescia's squad for Sunday's Serie A meeting with Roma after the former Manchester City striker was involved in a training-ground argument with coach Fabio Grosso.

Balotelli signed for his hometown club Brescia - who sit bottom of Serie A - in August and has scored two goals in seven league appearances so far.

However, he reportedly stormed out of a Brescia training session on Thursday following a disagreement with Grosso, who hinted in a news conference on Saturday the ex-Inter forward would not be included in his squad.

"What happened with Balotelli is something I'd already experienced in the past. I demand great intensity and a high tempo in my training sessions. When that doesn't happen, I prefer to change and make the session tougher," Grosso said.

"He didn't do that and was set to one side. I don't want to minimise the incident, nor blow it out of proportion. It will be crucial for me to use everyone at my disposal, but I can only do so much. At a certain point, he has to help himself.

"You will know of disciplinary action, but I prefer to communicate these things to the players first myself. It'll be for the good of the team. I don't deny what I said about Mario, because I still really want to use his characteristics for the side."

Balotelli's omission was subsequently confirmed as Brescia confirmed their 20-man squad for Sunday's trip to Stadio Olimpico.

Raheem Sterling will sit out of England's Euro 2020 qualifier on Thursday after a bust-up with international team-mate Joe Gomez.

Sterling admitted his emotions got the better of him when he confronted Gomez, after the pair also clashed on the field during Liverpool's 3-1 win over Manchester City on Sunday.

Gareth Southgate has sought to act quickly and decisively to draw a line under the matter, but the England manager can at least take comfort from the fact he is far from the first boss to have to try to defuse a team-mates' tiff.

Here we look through some examples of when presumed footballing friends became – however briefly – the best of enemies.

Neymar v Nelson Semedo

Neymar's world-record move to Paris Saint-Germain dominated Barcelona's preparation for the 2017-18 season, and all was not well on the training ground in the weeks leading up to the €222million switch.

Recent arrival Nelson Semedo became involved in a skirmish with the wantaway star in what proved to be an unseemly coda to his time at Camp Nou.

"I just arrived and one of the most important players in the team got in a fight with me," Semedo told Sport five months on from the July 2017 fracas. "It annoyed me at the time, but I also understood he was in a difficult moment, he wanted to leave."

Zlatan Ibrahimovic v Oguchi Onyewu

Never a shrinking violet, Zlatan Ibrahimovic boasts a career of confrontation in football. The taekwondo black-belt seemingly came close to meeting his match in USA defender Oguchi Onyewu when both played for AC Milan.

"I head-butted him, and we flew at each other," Ibrahimovic wrote in his autobiography. "We wanted to tear each other limb from limb. It was brutal. We were rolling around, punching and kneeing each other. We were crazy and furious – it was like life and death.

David Beckham v Alex Ferguson

Many a Manchester United player felt the heat of Alex Ferguson's infamous 'hairdryer' during the Scot's historic Old Trafford reign but – as far as we're aware – his ferocious words never actually drew blood.

The same could not be said for a stray boot in the United dressing room, though, when David Beckham was given a rocket by his boss in the aftermath of a February 2003 FA Cup defeat to Arsenal during the midfielder's final season at the club.

"He was around 12 feet from me. Between us on the floor lay a row of boots. David swore. I moved towards him and, as I approached, I kicked a boot. It hit him right above the eye," Ferguson explained. The resulting cut and butterfly plaster predictably dominated as the UK tabloids gorged on the fallout. 

Mario Balotelli v Micah Richards

Mario Balotelli was rarely far away from behind-the-scenes controversy at Manchester City, allegedly throwing darts at youth team players and once even grappling with his manager and mentor Roberto Mancini.

However, things reached boiling point in 2011 due to the unexpected multi-lingual talents of one of his team-mates.

"We were playing five-a-side and we were losing because he didn't work, which is evident,' Micah Richards told Sky quiz show 'A League of Their Own' in 2016. "He swore at me in Italian and he thought I didn't understand. But I know a bit of Italian lingo, so I said, 'Who you talking to?' He said it again, so we squared up and I offered him out. But he said no."

Craig Bellamy v John Arne Riise

Balotelli's arrival at City in August 2010 came around the same time as Craig Bellamy was tying up a loan move to Cardiff City, leaving us all to wonder what might have happened had the combustible duo shared a dressing room for any period of time. John Arne Riise, perhaps, has a fair idea.

In an infamous incident before a Champions League game at Barcelona in 2007, where both players went on to score in a Liverpool win, Riise drew Bellamy's terrifying wrath when he refused demands to sing karaoke on a team night out.

Later on, Riise found an unexpected visitor in his hotel room. "Craig Bellamy at the foot of my bed with a golf club in his hands," he reported in his autobiography. According to the Norway full-back's version of events, he managed to avoid Bellamy striking his shins by jumping out of bed but took blows to his hip and thigh.

Aboubakar Kamara v Aleksandar Mitrovic

While the risks of a rowdy team karaoke session might seem obvious in hindsight, sometimes even yoga isn't safe.

Aboubakar Kamara had not appeared particularly zen when he grabbed the ball off Aleksandar Mitrovic to take and miss a penalty during Fulham's December 2018 Premier League game against Huddersfield Town.

A fight then reportedly broke out between the pair at a yoga session and an eventful few weeks for Kamara concluded with him being arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm and criminal damage after an incident at Fulham's training ground.

Alan Shearer v Keith Gillespie

Famously incisive in front of goal, the Premier League's all-time record goalscorer Alan Shearer once became involved in an argument about dropped cutlery with Newcastle United team-mate Keith Gillespie that escalated sharply.

"We ended up going outside, and I took one swing and missed, and he hit me - and that was goodnight," Gillespie told talkSPORT of the scrap during a 1997 team trip to Dublin. "I did actually spend a night in hospital. Because when he hit me, I fell and hit my head on a plant pot. I was unconscious."

Apparently, Shearer visited his stricken team-mate and they "had a laugh about it". They weren't the only ones.

Stig Tofting v Jasper Gronkjaer

A tough-tackling midfield enforcer, you might expect any training ground row featuring Stig Tofting to have followed a bone-crunching challenge. However, there was more shivering than shuddering when a pre-2002 World Cup jape involving Jasper Gronkjaer got out of hand.

During some stretching exercises, Tofting and partner-in-crime Thomas Gravesen sprayed the then-Chelsea winger with water bottles and put ice cubes down his shorts. Gronkjaer hurt his eye during the prank, which concluded with him wrestling Tofting and being grabbed by the throat.

Danish FA official Jim Stjerne-Hansen told reporters: "These players need a kindergarten teacher to sort them out."

Roberto Mancini will not recall Mario Balotelli to the Italy squad just to make an anti-racism statement but is adamant the Brescia striker is still young enough to make an impact for the Azzurri.

Balotelli, 29, was subjected to racist abuse by Hellas Verona fans in a 2-1 defeat this month and threatened to walk off the pitch.

Verona were ordered by Serie A to play a match with a partial stadium closure, while the club banned head ultra Luca Castellini for 11 years after he defended the fans' actions in a radio interview.

Balotelli returned to the Italy fold in 2018 after a four-year absence but has been back in the international wilderness since a 1-1 draw with Poland last September.

Mancini, the coach who gave him his big break at Inter in 2007, insists he is eager to see Balotelli play his way back into the squad, but he will not call up the forward for anything other than his performances.

"Football is a sport and as such it must unite people and not get destroyed by those few who make mistakes," Mancini told reporters.

"I love Mario. I played him when he was a teenager. He is still young enough to give much to the sport, but for me it is important to state that if I am to call him up, it's because he deserves it and can help us.

"Then, after what happened, I could have called him up, as the [Italian Football Federation] president [Gabriele Gravina] said, but I think it's important I call him when he technically deserves it, not to send a message. He still has other chances.

"We are nearly in 2020 and skin colour... It is not very easy for some people to change their attitude, unfortunately.

"We called up some young players [instead] because from now until March we will not have the chance to see them live [for Italy]."

Italy are due to face Bosnia-Herzegovina and Armenia in their final two Euro 2020 qualifiers on Friday and the following Monday, respectively.

The Azzurri are already assured of a place at next year's tournament.

Mario Balotelli has been criticised by Italian politician Matteo Salvini after the Brescia striker was racially abused in a Serie A match with Hellas Verona.

Balotelli kicked the ball at the Verona ultras after receiving racial abuse from sections of the home support during Sunday's clash.

The former Manchester City striker subsequently called out "a few idiots," while Verona responded by banning the leader of their ultras for 11 years.

In the week, Salvini - the leader of the party Lega Nord - claimed the abuse of Balotelli was "the least of his concerns," but added the behaviour should be condemned.

Salvini has now hit out at Balotelli again, with the former minister of the interior suggesting Italy has bigger problems to deal with than racism.

"Poor, innocent Balotelli, poor star. A person so staid and polite. I condemn every gesture of violence and racism but I prefer others in the field to Balotelli," he said.

"Italy has other problems."

Jorginho wants Serie A to take a "broader look" at the issue of racism beyond just penalising Hellas Verona following the abuse Mario Balotelli suffered at the weekend.

Brescia striker Balotelli kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch having heard monkey chants during the match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

Verona's coach Ivan Juric insisted there was no racist chanting, but Serie A punished the club by giving them a one-match partial stadium ban.

There have been other recent incidents of players suffering racist abuse in Italy this season, with Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly and Inter striker Romelu Lukaku subjected to offensive chants during games, and Jorginho wants Serie A to take a wider look at the problem.

"I am really sorry, because these things shouldn't happen - neither in football nor in the world," the Chelsea and Italy midfielder said.

"Unfortunately, they happen and I am really sorry. I'd like to send my affection to Mario, who doesn't deserve this.

"And if I may, I'd like to ask not to do things like this, because it really hurts these people and it should never happen.

"Unfortunately, it happened, but I don't think this happened only in Verona. It's happening everywhere.

"Therefore, I think we shouldn't penalise or point the finger only on Verona, we should take a broader look, because it didn't happen only in Verona.

"Yes, they made a mistake and it is true that it's not the first time, but how many times [has] it happened in other cities as well? It shouldn't happen, I repeat, and I am really sorry, but we have to take a broader look to all the cities where it happened and not only to Verona."

 

Brescia striker Mario Balotelli has criticised the "idiots" who racially abused him over the weekend but holds no grudges towards Hellas Verona.

Balotelli kicked a ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch after being subjected to monkey noises during the Serie A match at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday.

The referee brought play to a halt and followed protocol, with a prepared statement read over the public address system, as players from both sides persuaded Balotelli to play on.

Serie A has since enforced a one-match partial stadium closure while Verona have banned the leader of their ultras for 11 years, despite head coach Ivan Juric claiming no racist chanting took place.

Balotelli reserved his anger for the individuals responsible for the abuse.

"I didn't accuse Verona, I didn't accuse the Verona curva, I accused the few idiots who did it. I heard them," Balotelli told SportMediaset programme Le Iene.

"It wasn't two or three, because I heard them from the pitch. If I don't react, nothing happens. It's not a mistake, it's a serious matter.

"I tell the truth, the Verona stadium and the Verona fans are also nice to me, with their banter. But if you want to distract a player, you can do it in a thousand ways. Not like this. This is not good."

Balotelli, who scored for Brescia in the 2-1 defeat, said the treatment was particularly hurtful as his daughter had been watching on television.

"It makes it three times worse," he said. "It's already happened to her. You can't insult a child with words like that. Education and respect come from us adults.

"I'm not saying that I am different from the other players who have had the same noises and the same howls, but the problem is that I am Italian, and I want to be back in the national team."

Juventus head coach Maurizio Sarri says it is "unacceptable" that racism is still an issue in football in 2019 after Mario Balotelli was abused by Hellas Verona fans on Sunday.

Brescia striker Balotelli kicked the ball towards a section of Verona supporters in the second half of their Serie A clash after hearing abuse, then threatened to walk off the pitch.

The referee halted play before following protocol, with a statement read out to the crowd in an attempt to resolve the issue.

Balotelli was persuaded to stay on and see out the game, the former Manchester City and Inter striker scoring a stunning late goal in Brescia's 2-1 defeat.

Serie A confirmed a one-match partial stadium closure for Verona on Tuesday, while the club have banned their head ultra for 11 years after he defended the discriminatory chants.

Speaking ahead of Juve's Champions League meeting with Lokomotiv Moscow on Wednesday, Sarri expressed his frustration that racism continues to plague not just football but also society as a whole.

"It's not like these people come from an isolated world," he told a media conference. "It is people who live in society, which means there is racism everywhere.

"It is unacceptable that in 2019 there is still talk of racism. There is only one race and it is human. We have the technology to identify those responsible and stop them from going into stadiums."

Sarri knows a win in Moscow will secure their place in the knockout stages with two games to spare.

Gonzalo Higuain is pushing for a starting place up front, with Sarri believing the striker has become a more rounded team player this season.

The 31-year-old has managed just three goals in 12 appearances but has generally performed well alongside Cristiano Ronaldo or Paulo Dybala in attack.

"He has improved in making himself available to the team," Sarri explained.

"Before he was more focused on scoring goals; he was more selfish. Now he is more involved in the team play. He is perhaps less dangerous in the penalty area, but he works a lot for the team."

Serie A has confirmed a one-match partial stadium closure for Hellas Verona after supporters racially abused Brescia's Mario Balotelli, while the club have banned their head ultra for 11 years after defending the discriminatory chants.

Balotelli kicked the ball into the stands and threatened to walk off the pitch in the second half of his side's 2-1 defeat at Stadio Marcantonio Bentegodi on Sunday after hearing monkey chants.

The referee brought play to a halt before following protocol, with a statement read out in an attempt to resolve the situation, and Balotelli was persuaded to play on, later scoring Brescia's goal.

But Verona coach Ivan Juric subsequently insisted there was no racist chanting, while the club's president claimed he did not hear any abuse, and Luca Castellini – the head of their ultras – was involved in a controversial radio interview.

In the conversation, Castellini said the racial element was only "in [Balotelli's] own head", that Balotelli cannot be considered "completely Italian" and the fans' chants were to "make fun" of the striker, rather than racially abuse him.

Serie A's disciplinary commission on Tuesday confirmed the closure of the Poltrone Est stand by way of punishment, opting against more severe sanctions because the chants only came from that sector.

The confirmation of the punishment came shortly after Verona released a statement condemning Castellini's comments and barring him from attending matches until June 30, 2030 for "expressions seriously contrary to those that distinguish the ethical principles and values of our club".

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