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The son of the AC Milan owner has praised the striker and says he hopes the 23-year-old does not leave the club this summer

Piersilvio Berlusconi has labelled AC Milan striker Mario Balotelli a "great champion" and hopes he remains at San Siro amid speculation over his future in Italy.

The striker has been linked with a move away from the Rossoneri following criticism of his performances for Italy at this summer's World Cup.

But the son of Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi says he hopes the former Manchester City man stays with the club.

"Mario has a hard head and I say this with all the respect I have for him," he told reporters. "At the same time, however, he is also a great champion. I'm glad he's at Milan."

The businessman was also questioned about his sister Barbara's comments that the star was not irreplaceable.

"I think that means something else," he added. "That no-one is exempt from being sold.

"I think Balotelli has so much more to say and that if he gains a little he can become a champion. For me he is really very strong, but do not ask me whether it is a certainty that he will play at Milan next year.

"I speak as a fan and I would always have him in our team. These decisions, however, are taken by someone else."

Berlusconi also went on to talk about the appointment of former Rossoneri star Filippo Inzaghi as head coach.

"I have always admired Pippo as a player and I consider him an intelligent person, full of enthusiasm and balance.

"Hopefully he can do well for the Milan fans and also for me. Quite a task awaits him, but he will succeed with the warmth of the fans."

He also had a few words on the departure of another club legend, Kaka, which was confirmed earlier in the week.

"I understand Kaka's decision and his reasons [for leaving]. Seeing him leave is a blow to the heart because, in addition to being a part of the history of AC Milan, he is a great guy."

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