Vieira: Balo an easy target for press

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Balotelli, 28, faced major criticism within Italian media over his performance in the 1-1 draw against Poland - accused of being overweight and lazy.

"Mario was severely criticised in Italy: it's always like that when the team doesn't win, you need someone to blame," the former Arsenal captain said, as quoted by ESPN FC.

"I think that Mario was the perfect culprit for the Italian press.

"It's a shame. We spoke about it together, and I know that for these kinds of things, he is strong enough mentally to deal with the situation. But they have really been unfair with him."

Balotelli reported to pre-season training two weeks late amid speculation he would join Marseille and reportedly returned weighing 20kg over his ideal weight.

However, the France legend has waved away concerns as he confirmed the striker in the Nice squad for Saturday evening's fixture against Montpellier.

"He doesn't have an issue, it's OK," Vieira said. "I have always said that he needed time, he isn't yet at 100 percent, but he trained all week, his attitude is good, he works well.

"Every day, I see a player who applies himself, who wants to find his level, to score and to play with his friends.

"When he is there physically, he is someone who is very important for us. He will travel to Montpellier, that's for sure."

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