The Italy midfielder believes the AC Milan striker is placed under too much scrutiny by the media and should be judged on his performances rather than his private life
Andrea Pirlo has criticised the press for the constant attention placed on Italy forward Mario Balotelli, insisting the player must be left in peace.
The former Manchester City and Inter striker comes into the World Cup with expectations on his shoulders, with plenty of supporters concerned he will not recapture the form he showed in the Euro 2012 semi-final win over Germany despite scoring 14 in 30 Serie A games for AC Milan last season.
However, Pirlo believes that the 23-year-old needs to be given time and space to mature without the media glare if he is to fulfil his potential as a footballer and urged reporters to judge him solely on his displays on the pitch.
"I think we talk too much [about him], about anything and everything," the 35-year-old told a press conference.
"He is a young player, he is good, but you have to give him some air. When he goes to the toilet, there is no need to fill pages about Balotelli going to the toilet. Everything he does ends up in the newspapers and I think that is unfair.
"He must be judged solely on what he does on the field. The press spoke and now there are huge expectations around him. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not. He still has to mature and grow, but he will get there probably much quicker if left in a little peace. "
Pirlo remains a vital part of the Azzurri set-up and was a World Cup winner in 2006 when they overcame France in the final, but he stressed he is not an essential player for Cesare Prandelli's side.
"When I'm on the field, actions pass by me," he continued.
"I help the team play differently. But the team is also able to play very good matches without me."
Italy face England in Manaus on Saturday as they begin their Group D campaign.