Mario Balotelli shirt stolen AC Milan
Italy’s Mario Balotelli with AC Milan's Vice President Adriano GallianiReuters

A warehouse worker with family ties to AC Milan's vice-president has been arrested for stealing football kits from his employer. Mustapha Medhoun was caught red-handed as he was spiriting away with two pair of socks, football shoes and a tracksuit of Dutch winger Urby Emanuelson from a storage room at the Italian team's training centre of Milanello, near Varese, police said.

A search of Medhoun's home revealed hundreds official merchandise items, including shirts of strikers Mario Balotelli and Carlos Bacca that he allegedly stole from work. Medhoun appeared before a local court for a preliminary hearing on 15 December and denies charges of theft.

In a bizarre twist, the 53-year-old, who had first been hired by the Rossoneri 13 years ago, has family ties to Silvio Berlusconi's right-hand man at AC Milan, the club's CEO and vice president Adriano Galliani. Medhoun, a Moroccan native, is in fact the brother-in-law of Galliani's ex-wife, model Malika El Hazzazi.

AC Milan had reported to police numerous instances of theft from its training ground in recent weeks. Hidden cameras were subsequently put in place leading detectives to Medhoun.

His lawyer, Leonardo Cammarata, however maintained that, as warehouse worker, it was normal for Medhoun to rummage through official merchandise and have some of it at home. In addition, some of the items retrieved by police were actually regularly purchased and paid for, he claimed. The man has been released with an order not leave the country, pending trial.

The news came as AC Milan is struggling to win matches in Serie A, despite big investments over the summer.