(CNN) -- Troubled by racism and corruption, Italian football's image took another turn for the worst after Lazio president Claudio Lotito revealed he had received "death threats" from scores of fans after selling star player Hernanes to Inter Milan.
Hernanes, the Brazilian who arrived at Rome-based Lazio in 2010, swapped the Italian capital for Milan at the end of the January transfer window.
"Yesterday, I received between 50 to 70 to 80 telephone calls from pseudo-fans, in which they asked me to leave Lazio and made death threats against me," Lotito told reporters.
"I live under escort," he added. "The supporters are part of the club but now they have overstepped the mark."
Hernanes became a firm favorite among Lazio fans after joining the club from Sao Paulo; making over 100 appearances and helping the team win the 2013 Coppa Italia.
But, with his contract expiring at the end of the current season, Hernanes would have been able to switch clubs without Lazio commanding a transfer fee, leaving Lotito with no choice but to sell the player.
"It was Hernanes' decision to leave, so what could I do?" added Lotito. "He had an agreement with Inter. If he had stayed, he would have been unhappy.
"He would have stayed here unhappy until June, then gone off to the World Cup, then come back for a few months and left on a free transfer.
"If you want to leave, you've got to say so."
In recent years Italian football has been troubled by racist chanting towards black players, while supporters use football as an excuse to play out long-running spats between different parts of Italy's cities as well as its regions.
Match fixing has also blighted Italian football with leading club Juventus relegated to the second tier over the Calciopoli scandal in 2006.
Lotito himself was banned from football for two-and-a-half years for his involvement in the Calciopoli scandal.
Hernanes, who has played 23 times for his country, will hope to be part of Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad when Brazil hosts the World Cup later this year.