Bad boy Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli charged over social media outburst
Liverpool striker Mario Balotelli has been charged by the Football Association following allegedly racist and anti-semitic comments on social media.
Balotelli reposted an image of computer game character Super Mario on Instagram earlier this week, which included the words "jumps like a black man and grabs coins like a Jew".
The FA announced in a statement: "Mario Balotelli has been charged by the FA in relation to a recent posting on social media.
"It is alleged the Liverpool player breached FA rule E3 in that his posting was abusive and/or insulting and/or improper.
"It is further alleged that this is an 'aggravated breach' as defined by FA rule E3 as it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or colour and/or race and/or nationality and/or religion or belief."
Balotelli has until 6pm on December 15 to respond to the charge.
A Liverpool club spokesperson said: "We acknowledge the FA's decision and the player will work through the process to answer the charge.
"While that process is on-going the club will not be making any further comment."
The striker apologised on Monday, writing on Twitter: "I apologize if I've offended anyone. The post was meant to be anti-racist with humour. I now understand that out of context (it) may have the opposite effect."
The 24-year-old, who will miss Liverpool's match against Sunderland today with a groin injury, has scored only two goals in his 14 appearances for the club.
The minimum ban for a race-related offence is five matches and such a suspension may prove to be the final straw for Liverpool and manager Brendan Rodgers with the January transfer window looming.
Meanwhile, boss Rodgers believes the next month will be pivotal to Liverpool's season.
After a disappointing start, the Reds recorded back-to-back wins for the first time in the campaign with victory at Leicester on Wednesday night.
And, because their main rivals for a Champions League spot have also had their own difficulties, achieving their primary aim of finishing in the Barclays Premier League's top four still remains well within their capabilities.
They currently stand just six points off third-placed Southampton and have yet to play anywhere close to their best football, or even field their strongest team, with striker Daniel Sturridge - who has been sent to Los Angeles for two weeks' rehabilitation - not set to return until the new year having not played for the club since August 31.
It leaves Rodgers full of optimism that a good month, starting at home to Sunderland today and then facing top-four rivals Manchester United and Arsenal in successive weeks, can put them firmly back on track.
"We have a bit of momentum now in terms of results, which breeds confidence in the team and releases what might feel like a little bit of pressure," he said.
"We still have a lot of work to do. There is a long road for us, but we are edging our way there.
"If we get to the halfway point in January and be there or thereabouts I will be pleased with that, considering the start we had in the first 12 games."
Liverpool v Sunderland, Premier League: Anfield, 3pm