Balotelli poses with `shotgun`

Paris: Italian striker Mario Balotelli was at the centre of fresh controversy on Friday after posting a picture of himself on social media apparently posing with a shotgun.

The 23-year-old AC Milan star was pictured on his Instagram account staring down the barrel of the weapon aimed straight at the camera.

The photo was captioned: "Kiss to all who hate me".

AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani said he was frustrated by Balotelli`s latest indiscretion, but was limited by what he could do in terms of players` use of social media.

"Our lawyer has always stopped me, saying that it would violate individual rights," said Galliani.

"In contracts it`s written what players can and cannot do, but we can`t do anything regarding their private lives. We do it vocally but that`s not enough."

Balotelli, who has since deleted the image from his account, came in for severe criticism after Italy`s first round World Cup exit, cutting a lost and frustrated figure as his team went down 1-0 to Uruguay.

One video posting on Instagram by an Italian fan said: "Mario, do you know what the thing is? You`re not Italian, get out."

As a rare Italy international of African origin -- his birth parents are Ghanaian -- Balotelli stands out in an Italy shirt.

Balotelli replied to the video post and sent a link to his impassioned defence on his own Twitter page.

"I`m Mario Balotelli, I`m 23 and I didn`t choose to be Italian," he said.

"Don`t put all the blame only on me this time because Mario Balotelli gave everything for the national team and didn`t mess up anything (from a character point of view), so look for another excuse because Mario Balotelli has a clear conscience and is ready to go forward stronger than before and with his head held high."