Italian footballer Mattia Perin says the sport’s “very conservative” nature makes it “too difficult for someone to declare their sexuality.”

In an interview with Italia 1, the 21-year-old goalkeeper for Serie A club Genoa, said: “Compared to other sports, our one, especially in Italy, is very conservative.

“I think it would be too difficult for someone to declare their sexuality at this time.”

In another recent interview with Corriere dello Sport, 31-year-old striker Alberto Gilardino said: “I would have no problem having a gay teammate.

They are very normal people. My wife and I have many gay friends, I don’t think I would be embarrassed at all to have gay teammates.”

In 2012, Italian striker Antonio Cassano was fined €15,000 for anti-gay comments he made in the run-up to the Euro 2012 championships.

Cassano, 29, said: “If I say what I think… I hope there are none. But if there are queers here, that’s their business.”

In 2009, the coach of the Italian national football team said that in “the current climate” it would be impossible for two of his players to be in a gay relationship.