Inzaghi backs under-fire Balotelli

Filippo Inzaghi has urged Mario Balotelli to silence his critics and is backing the striker to play a key role in a new era at Milan.

The controversial forward came in for criticism as a result of his performances in Italy's disappointing FIFA World Cup campaign.

Former national coach Cesare Prandelli stated at his unveiling by Galatasaray this week that Balotelli "is not a champion" and "needs to come back to reality".

The former Manchester City star has been linked with a move away from San Siro ahead of the new season, but new Milan coach Inzaghi has given the 23-year-old his backing.

Inzaghi also revealed that Balotelli plans to return to training early to ensure he is firing on all cylinders when the new campaign starts.

"I'm very calm, I called Mario after Italy left the World Cup. I told him the criticism he received he needs to use to his advantage. I'm sure Mario will play well this season." he said.

"He's a very good player who can make the difference. He's an important player for Italian football. I heard from him that he's very keen to come back and wants to leave his holiday early to come back and that does him a lot of credit."

Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani refused to get into a war of words with Prandelli following his criticism of Balotelli, but was not impressed with his comments.

He said: "Milan has been a little shocked by this announcement. I don't want to make a scandal out of this, but let's just say he wasn't very elegant."