AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi has labelled Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli a "rotten apple" and claims the enigmatic Italian was signed against his advice at the San Siro.
The Daily Express carries quotes from the controversial politician, who heavily criticised the 24-year-old marksman following a disappointing spell back in Serie 'A'.
Balotelli ended his turbulent time in Milan when he returned to the Premier League this summer, joining Brendan Rodgers' Anfield revolution in a cut-price £16 million transfer. He agreed to take a 50 per cent pay-cut to secure a three-year deal, with wages of £80,000-a-week that will cost the club an additional £12.5 million.
The former Manchester City man has made a modest start to life on Merseyside and is still awaiting his first league goal for the Reds; a disappointing return for a player brought in to fill the void left by the recently departed Luis Suarez.
Daniel Sturridge's injury problems have heaped further pressure on Balotelli, who has taken a large amount of flak from supporters frustrated by the Reds poor start to the 2014/15 campaign.
And, his reputation has been dealt a further blow following latest comments from Berlusconi, who slated the player's contribution to his team before reiterating his belief that Filippo Inzaghi's side are much better off without him.
"I remember he was bought against my advice," he explained in an interview with Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"We have many champions: [Jeremy] Menez, [Keisuke] Honda, [Stephan] El Shaarawy, [Fernando] Torres, [Nigel] De Jong...
"The base is there. And we no longer have a rotten apple in the dressing room."
Berlusconi spoke positively about his aspirations for AC Milan this season, and outlined the Champions League final as a realistic target for the Italian giants in 2016.
"Our goal is to return to Europe," he added. "We want to build a winning side.
"I think there are cycles in football, with years of success, then breaks, then back to winning. But the fans should rest assured - the team is already competitive and we'll soon be leaders in Europe again.
"The 2016 Champions League final is in Milan. Why shouldn't we dream of being there?"
As for Balotelli and Liverpool, so far they have made difficult work of their return to Europe's elite club competition, edging out Bulgarian minnows Ludogorets with a 2-1 win in their opening group game - thanks to a goal from the summer signing - before losing to FC Basel in Switzerland.
With holders Real Madrid up next, Rodgers' side face a difficult task of recording any more points from the next round of fixtures, meaning they'll be up against it to qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament.
The Reds' domestic form is only marginally better after failing to replicate the sort of performances that led them to a second place finish in the Premier League last term, with just ten points from their opening seven games which leaves them languishing in ninth place in the table.
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