Smalling and Lukaku anger at headline
Chris Smalling and Romelu Lukaku have criticised Corriere dello Sport's "Black Friday" headline, with the on-loan Roma defender labelling it "wrong and highly insensitive".
The former Manchester United team-mates were pictured either side of the headline on yesterday's front page of the Italian daily, ahead of tonight's clash between Roma and Lukaku's Inter Milan.
The cover has attracted widespread criticism and the players had their say on Twitter.
Smalling wrote: "Whilst I would have liked to spend the day focusing on the big game tomorrow, it is important that I acknowledge that what occurred this morning was wrong and highly insensitive.
"I hope the editors involved in running this headline take responsibility and understand the power they possess through words, and the impact those words can have."
Lukaku called it the "dumbest of headlines", adding: "You guys keep fuelling the negativity and the racisme (sic) issue (...) instead of talking about the beautiful game that's going to be played at San Siro between two great clubs.
"Education is key (...) you guys of corriere dello sport should do a better job at that."
Anti-discrimination organisation Fare network condemned the front page and its executive director Piara Powar branded it "at the very least clumsy".
He said: "Part of the problem we have with Italy and countries like that at the moment is people do not know where to draw a line.
"They don't know what is the right or wrong thing to do, what is appropriate or inappropriate and what might be racism and what might be acceptable.
"If this was two English players - Lukaku is Belgian obviously - and they had said it was a 'St George's Day clash' or both were Belgians and it was the 'Battle of Brussels' that would be different, but they are highlighting their race."