Negredo: I would defend Balotelli if he walked off the pitch because of racism

The Sevilla striker has described the issue dominating headlines at Euro 2012 as "ugly" and insisted that Spain is not feeling nervous ahead of its opening match against Italy.
 Ashish Sharma
 Based in Gdansk
Spain striker Alvaro Negredo has implied that he would support Mario Balotelli if the Italy star decided to walk off the pitch during a Euro 2012 match due to racist abuse from the stands.

UEFA president Michel Platini told the media before the tournament kicked off that players leaving the pitch due to offensive chanting would be booked and that only the referee had the authority to call a game off if such an incident were to take place.

Balotelli, however, has indicated that he will not tolerate any racist abuse aimed in his direction, and declared that he would gladly "kill" anyone who subjected him to racial abuse.

Negredo feels that it is "completely normal" for a player such as Balotelli to be offended by such abuse, and described racism as an "ugly subject" for players and fans to find themselves discussing.

"Look, this [racism] is a really ugly subject for us and for fans to have to be talking about," the Sevilla star told "I think this should have nothing to do with football just because a player is of a different colour. This has to do with other things too.

"I have known and been with many companions of mine of a different color and never had any problems with these things.

"To be honest, if any player who goes through this and feels offended, then I think that is a completely normal feeling because nobody ever wants to be insulted over their race or for their color - or for anything. And so in this sense I would defend him [if he chose to walk off]."

Negredo admitted that the Spain squad had talked over the issue of racism and wanted strict measures to be put in place to combat the problem.

"Racism has been talked about in the squad but also not to the degree of such intensity," he explained. "For example, we have discussed the issue when we are all eating together because its not a nice subject.

"It's not a good subject for a country or for any team. But at the same time the whole world really wants there to be a much tougher stance on this matter and for all people to be much better prepared over these issues. And, in truth, this is something that we all have to be careful with."

Spain faces Italy in its opening match of the Euro 2012 finals on Sunday and is favorite to lift the trophy again as defending champion, but Negredo insisted that the pressure placed on Vicente del Bosque's team would not affect it.

"No, we are not nervous," Negredo maintained. "I think when the match arrives there are bound to be some nerves but at the moment the whole squad is calm and tranquil.

"We will make sure that we rest very well because it is a really important game for Spain."

Negredo will compete with Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres for the striking role in Del Bosque's starting XI, but admitted that his coach was keeping his cards close to his chest ahead of kickoff.

"We don't know who is going to start up-front - we still don't know what the decision will be as the coach has not even given one clue," Negredo revealed. "He has not said anything. But it is a tactic to have all 23 of us players really on our toes and very keen to play this game.

"I have to say I agree that the best method is to name the team at the very last moment. That way all of us as players are completely switched on and ready until that last moment."

Italy, renowned in the past for its defensive solidity, has adopted a more adventurous approach under coach Cesare Prandelli but though Negredo was aware of the threat posed by the Azzurri, he reiterated that Spain would stick to its own style.

"Italy are more attack-minded than they once were, but we also have an idea and a way that we want to play the game," Negredo added. "They have their way of doing things. It is true that they have tended to be a team that plays a little more defensively, and now they are changing that. Now they play much more offensively.

"In attack they have players with tremendous quality. All of their play passes through Andrea Pirlo. In him they have a player of outstanding ability in the center of midfield.

"We will try and close down these outlets that they have and if we have possession of the ball then we will do what we always try and do. That means we will move it around in possession and keep a hold of the ball. We have no rush to get to their penalty area and in doing that we hope to wear down our opponents."

Negredo witnessed the first big upset of the tournament on Saturday when Netherlands fell to a surprise 1-0 defeat at to Denmark, and the Madrid-born forward predicted an uphill struggle ahead for Bert van Marwijk's side.

"Yeah, what a result! They are seen as being one of the favorites here, and now they are left having to play two rivals that in truth are going to be very tough," the 26-year-old said. "In truth, I think that this is now going to be very difficult for them, but that being said they do still have two games to play and they are capable of fixing things."