Giuseppe Bellusci will keep his place in Leeds United’s starting side on Saturday amid the on-going investigation into allegations of racism against him.
The defender has spoken with club owner Massimo Cellino and sporting director Nicola Salerno and will continue to play while the Football Association examines claims that he racially abused Norwich City striker Cameron Jerome.
Bellusci, 25, is accused of aiming a racist slur at Jerome during the first half of Tuesday’s 1-1 draw between Leeds and Norwich, an allegation Cellino said the defender vehemently denies.
Cellino described Bellusci as “surprised” and “shocked” by Jerome’s claims, saying the former Catania player “swears to me he said nothing racist.”
Bellusci has not commented on the incident himself and head coach Darko Milanic refused to discuss the it at length ahead of tomorrow’s league game against Wolverhampton Wanderers.
But Milanic confirmed that Bellusci would be heavily involved in his plans throughout the FA’’s investigation, and the centre-back is expected to start against Wolves at Elland Road.
Milanic said: “There is an investigation but I can’t talk about this. He (Bellusci) is speaking with the president and the sporting director.”
Asked if Bellusci would be named in his squad against Wolves tomorrow, Milanic said: “Yes.”
Bellusci will face a minimum five-game suspension if he is found guilty of racist abuse, though the FA is in the early stages of its investigating and could take a number of weeks to reach a decision on whether to charge the Italian.
Officials from the FA were expected to interview Bellusci later today, though the governing body has not confirmed whether that meeting will in fact take place.
Jerome is understood to have told Mark Clattenburg, the match official at Carrow Road on Tuesday, that Bellusci called him a ‘negro’ during a confrontation between them in the 25th minute.
Clattenburg brought a temporary halt to the game while he listened to Jerome’s complaint and informed both benches of the allegation against Bellusci.
He sent a match report to the FA the following morning, providing its disciplinary commission with his version of events.
Cellino, who talked to Bellusci on Wednesday and again with Salerno yesterday, came out in support of the player, saying: “Bellusci is no racist. I spoke with him and he said ‘you must be joking, I said nothing like this to him (Jerome).’ He is surprised by this. He is shocked.
“I don’t allow racists at this club and I won’t allow racists at this club ever. If one of my players is a racist, I’ll kick his a**e and kick him out before the FA has a chance.
“Bellusci says he spoke (to Jerome) in Italian. I don’t know if he (Jerome) speaks Italian too but Bellusci swears to me he said nothing racist.
“He was p****d off, sure, because he got hit in the neck and the face but he denies anything racist.
“I believe him and I’ll support him.”
The FA is in the process of analysing video footage from Tuesday’s match and contacting all parties involved.
Cellino said: “I’ll write to (the FA) to clarify my position on Bellusci and racism. If any Leeds player was shown to be a racist, he’d be out. That’s my philosophy and my promise.”
Bellusci has been a mainstay in United’s team since joining the club from Catania in August.
Cellino spent £1.6m to sign him permanently after initially taking him on a season-long loan, making Bellusci the most expensive of the 15 players recruited by Leeds in the summer.
The defender took up a four-year contract at Elland Road, tying him to the club until 2018, and he is half of an established partnership with Jason Pearce in the centre of United’s defence.
Both players have accumulated four yellow cards this season and are one booking away from incurring a mandatory one-match ban.
Milanic, however, will keep that part of his team intact for his sixth league game in charge tomorrow.
The Slovenian is still waiting for his first win as head coach, a month after taking on the job at Elland Road.
“At Norwich we played well in defence,” Milanic said.
“It was extremely difficult because of Norwich, the way they player and their pressure, but we played a good game.”