Lineker defends Balotelli in row

Ross McLean
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FORMER England striker Gary Lineker has jumped to the defence of Mario Balotelli after the misfiring striker swapped shirts with defender Pepe at half time during Liverpool’s drubbing by Real Madrid on Wednesday.

The actions of Balotelli riled Anfield boss Brendan Rodgers although ex-Tottenham hitman Lineker believes the incident requires little debate.

“On the Balotelli shirt swapping furore, I doubt they’re having the same debate in Spain re Pepe,” Lineker posted on Twitter. “All is fine when you win. Can’t see the negative in a half-time shirt swap.

Does it affect the result? No. Does it affect performance? No. Is it unsportsmanlike? No.”

Balotelli also received support from ex-Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira, who knows the Italian from his time at Inter Milan as well as Manchester City. Vieira tweeted: “Why judge a player on what he does with a shirt? Discuss his form, don’t use him as an easy target.”