FORTALEZA, Brazil (AP) — Mario Balotelli was sent home from the Confederations Cup on Monday due to a strained thigh, leaving Italy without its top striker for both the semifinal vs. Spain and the final or third-place match.
Having already been ruled out of Thursday's semifinal, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli decided to send Balotelli home after consulting with team physician Enrico Castellacci.
"I feel like a loser leaving this way. I would have liked to stay but there's the Champions League preliminary round so I've got to take care of myself," Balotelli said upon leaving the team hotel, referring to matches in August with AC Milan. "Anyhow my teammates will do well even without me."
Balotelli injured his left quadriceps during Italy's 4-2 loss to Brazil on Saturday. He has been the Azzurri's most explosive player in the tournament so far, scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory over Mexico, converting a penalty in the 4-3 win over Japan and setting up a goal for Emanuele Giaccherini against Brazil.
"He's obviously very upset but there's just not enough time for him to return," Prandelli said, adding that the decision was made without any pressure from Milan. "We just used good sense."
Castellacci said that Milan's medical staff will take over treatment.
"I checked out Balotelli this morning and, considering his condition, I don't think he will be able to recuperate before the final," Castellacci said. "It's not worth taking more risks."