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The Cameroonian's real age was called into question on social media, but the Lazio president has come out in defence of his player

Lazio president Claudio Lotito has slammed the treatment of youngster Joseph Minala after the 17-year-old's age was called into question.

Rumours on social media rapidly circulated that the Cameroonian had lied about his age with one website suggesting he was 42 - a claim furiously denied by Lazio, who were quick to threaten legal action.

Lotito believes Minala deserves to be treated better by the public, particularly given his tough path into professional football.

"The guy has suffered so much. He was able to stand up while being part of a tough situation. He's a victim of a sick system," he told the Corriere dello Sport.

"He's a guy who has been tried by life. You know his story: he arrived in Italy and was assigned a guardian. Apart from anything else, Minala should be respected as a human being.

"They say he looks like a 40-year-old? Can you tell me how a 40-year-old could stand the pace of the game?"

Lazio have been unequivocal in their support of Minala, releasing a statement on Wednesday threatening action against those doubting his age.

"We reserve the right to take action against those responsible for the protection of the good name of the company and the footballer," it read.

The player himself also dismissed the rumours, telling the club's official website: "I have read the alleged statements posted on the website in which it says I confessed my real age which was different to what was stated in my [official] documents.

"They are false statements that have been attributed to me by people who do not know."