De Rossi: I never criticised Balotelli

The Roma midfielder has denied that he was referring to the former Milan star when he questioned the mentality of certain team-mates after the World Cup

Daniele De Rossi has insisted that he never criticised Italy team-mate Mario Balotelli and has claimed that his comments which were alleged to be about the Liverpool striker were misinterpreted.

The influential midfielder stated after Italy's disappointing World Cup performance that the Azzurri don't need 'Panini stickers' - just days after Balotelli had published a picture of a Panini album page full with stickers of himself - yet De Rossi has stressed that he didn't refer to the former AC Milan star.

"I never criticised Balotelli. When I said that Italy don't need Panini stickers, I meant that we need real men," De Rossi told Rai Sport.

"I had no idea Balotelli had that picture with all the stickers of himself. The media misinterpreted what I said.

"I didn't like it that people tried to find one or two players to blame for our World Cup exit. The whole team deserved to be criticised.

"In order to start over again, we need the mentality that we showed against Netherlands."

Italy will be looking to build on their 2-0 win over Netherlands on Thursday when they meet Norway on Tuesday.