Marseille striker Mario Balotelli says the "really extreme" racism he's witnessed in Italian football is worse than any he's seen in England or France.
The 28-year-old joined Marseille in January after terminating his contract at Nice but told Quelli Che Il Calcio (h/t ESPN FC) he hopes to retire at Italian club Brescia.
On the subject of racism, however, Balotelli said Italy is the worst country he's played in when it comes to racist abuse: "In England, on a football level, I never saw anything like this. In France, I've not seen much—but no one is like Italy. In Italy, it is really extreme."
Born in Palermo to Ghanaian parents, Balotelli moved to Brescia as a youngster before joining Inter Milan in 2007 at the age of 16. He referenced a meeting with Juventus in 2009, after which the Bianconeri were ordered to play a game behind closed doors due to the racist abuse shown by their fans:
"Juve-Inter, when I was younger, was a catastrophe—emotionally, it was a disaster. They were making these chants.
"There was no motive as I hadn't done anything at all. Not to the players or to the fans. When I got home, I asked my mother: 'Why? Why were they doing that?'
"But there was no explanation. I was a kid, I don't think they understood how much this really hurt me. Luckily, I have a strong character, but you can really destroy a person."
Balotelli has represented Manchester City and Liverpool in the Premier League, while he also played for AC Milan in two stints. This isn't the first time he's encouraged Italy to catch up with its European peers in regards to racism, via Goal:
The topic has been raised across multiple leagues this season. European football's governing body, UEFA, and world players' union FIFPro said in December that they were "very concerned" by the racist abuse aimed at Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly during a clash between Napoli and Inter, per Sky Sports.
Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri joined Juventus chief Massimiliano Allegri and other managers in condemning supporters' participation in any racist activity, via Goal:
In the same month, a Chelsea fan was accused of racially abusing Manchester City star Raheem Sterling, who took to Instagram to address his concerns with how the British media doesn't help dissuade racist rhetoric.
Former United States internationals Tim Howard and Maurice Edu recently discussed the matter of racism in football with Kate Abdo: