Inter Milan's Acerbi leaves Italy camp amid racism allegation

Inter Milan defender Francesco Acerbi left Italy's national team training camp on Monday amid an allegation that he racially abused Napoli counterpart Juan Jesus in Sunday's Serie A match.

Juan Jesus, who is Black, was visibly upset in the second half when he walked up to the referee, who then called over Acerbi.

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In close-up television images, Juan Jesus appeared to be telling the referee that Acerbi had used a racist slur. Juan Jesus was also pointing at his shirt sleeve, which had a "Keep Racism Out" badge -- as part of the league's anti-racism campaign.

Acerbi joined up with the Italy squad in Rome before the Azzurri fly to the United States on Tuesday for friendly matches against Venezuela and Ecuador but the 36-year-old has now been replaced by Roma defender Gianluca Mancini.

The Italian football federation (FIGC) said in a statement that in accordance with the Azzurri's internal policy, Acerbi spoke to Italy coach Luciano Spalletti and the players to explain his own version of "the presumed racist expression" he allegedly used.

"From the Inter defender's account, pending that what happened is reconstructed with full respect to the autonomy of the sporting justice system, it emerged that there was no defamatory, denigrating or racist intent on his part," the FIGC said.

"It was nevertheless agreed to leave Acerbi out of the squad for the next two friendly matches in the United States, to guarantee the necessary serenity to the national team and to the player himself, who will return to his club today."

Acerbi has denied using racist language towards Jesus.

"I did not say any racist phrases. I have been playing football for 20 years and I know what I say," Acerbi told Italian journalists when he returned from the camp.

"Many things happen on the pitch ... but when the referee blows his whistle, you shake hands, and it all goes back to how it was before.

"There must be no racism anywhere in the world. I'm sorry I had to leave the national team training camp, but that's how it was and it's right."

Juan Jesus would not confirm afterward what happened.

"What happens on the field, stays on the field," the Brazilian told DAZN. "Acerbi apologised, he went a bit over the top with his words. He is a good guy.

"Moreover, obviously we're adults, we can sort it out on the field. He apologised, we moved on and when the referee blows his whistle everything ends there. It's fine."

Acerbi and Juan Jesus also embraced at the end of the match, which finished in a 1-1 draw -- with the Napoli player scoring a late equaliser against his former team.

"I hope it doesn't happen again because he's an intelligent guy," the 32-year-old Juan Jesus added.

Acerbi wasn't disciplined by the referee.

If the FIGC opens an investigation, Acerbi could eventually face a ban of at least 10 matches if found guilty.

Much could depend on what has been written in the referee's report, which has been sent to the Italian league's sporting judiciary.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.