MILAN: The signing of controversial striker Mario Balotelli will not affect AC Milan’s commercial brand according to Director Umberto Gandini.

Balotelli returned to Serie A from English champions Manchester City, leaving training ground bust-ups and other controversial episodes in his wake.

Gandini explained to iSportconnect: “We brought back the starting centre forward of the Italian national team because he is a strong player who can help us on the pitch right away.

“Any commercial consequence will be welcome but merely a consequence. We do not acquire players for commercial purposes. But his arrival would hopefully help the team to win games which will assist the brand commercially. And that is our target.”

Milan started selling Balotelli shirts on their official website before the signing had officially gone through and Gandini said: “More than 400 shirts have been sold overnight on our website worldwide so the start is promising.

“However, it’s too early to say, but I am sure we will start to see a new AC Milan shirt number 45, around the world soon.”

Balotelli signed for Milan in a deal worth around €20m. Replica shirts with the striker’s name and number on the back are being sold for €82.

Tear gas

Milan fans’ over-exuberance at Balotelli’s arrival had prompted clashes with police in the city’s centre on Wednesday night.

Police used tear gas as the fans let off flares and threw bottles outside a restaurant where Balotelli was having dinner. One policeman was treated in hospital for head injuries.

Balotelli, previously with city rivals Internazionale, said earlier he had no hesitation about deciding to move from England to the seven-time European champions: “I’d wanted to play for Milan for such a long time. Obviously I played for other teams and couldn’t come. But when there was the chance, I ran.”

Asked what he liked and disliked about his stay in England, Balotelli said: “Good things: Only when I got to Carrington to train, so my team-mates and manager. Bad things: Everything else – press, weather, food, the way people  drive. But it is an amazing league and I think it’s the best, together with the crowd and the pitches.”

City signed Balotelli for £24m in 2010 and he scored 30 goals in 80 appearances, helping City win the Premier League title last season. He has managed only three strikes in 20 matches this term.

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