Saturday 22 October 2016

Former Southampton star Graziano Pelle sent home from Italy squad for disrespectful action

Jack Austin

Published 07/10/2016 | 15:30

Graziano Pelle
Graziano Pelle

Former Southampton striker Graziano Pelle has been sent home from Italy’s World Cup qualifiers squad for refusing to shake coach Gianpiero Ventura’s hand after being substituted.

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Pelle left Southampton for the riches of the Chinese Super League – where Shandong Luneng have made him the fifth highest paid footballer in the world – and was substituted after an hour of an ineffectual performance against Spain on Thursday evening.

The 31-year-old snubbed Ventura’s hand when leaving the field and the Italian football federation confirmed he had been sent back to his club in China and will consequently miss Sunday’s qualifier in Macedonia.

“Unfortunately, it’s happened again,” said Pelle on his Instagram account. “I’ve messed things up.

“It was unacceptable behaviour, firstly against the coach and also, towards my teammates, who have always shown me to have important values in this fantastic Italy group we belong to.

“Like any great mistake, I accept the consequences. And it is only right that I take responsibility. I must ask offer my apologies from my heart to everyone.”

However, Ventura played down the incident with Pelle and said he understood his anger because of the way Italy were playing.

“Pellè was angry, I think this was not so much because of the substitution as the way we had played up to that point,” he said.

Captain Gianluigi Buffon also sympathised with the situation and said that an apology was all that was needed from Pelle.

“He’s a great guy and in the cold light of day, I’m sure he will realise he was wrong,” said Buffon.

“If he apologises for his behaviour, we will be happy to embrace him. It was wrong but these things happen in such tense matches.”

The game ended 1-1 with a late Daniele De Rossi penalty maintaining Italy’s 52-game unbeaten run in qualifiers – a run that stretches back to 2006.

Independent News Service

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