Pepe apologises for 'unintentional' stamp on Messi's hand after backlash
Real Madrid defender Pepe has apologised for his apparent stamp on Lionel Messi's hand in last night's 2-1 defeat to arch-rivals Barcelona.
But the Portugal international insisted the act, which was missed at the time by the referee, was 'unintentional'.
Words: Gerard Pique has harsh words with Pepe
The 28-year-old was branded 'shameful' and 'embarrassing' in the Spanish press following the incident during the Copa del Rey quarter-final first leg at the Bernabeu, which came when Messi was lying on the ground.
And in a statement on the club's website, Pepe said: 'I wish to say yesterday's incident with Leo Messi was unintentional, but I nevertheless want to apologise to him if he was offended because all I do is defend my team and this institution.
'I give my heart and soul, and the thought of hurting a colleague has never entered my mind.'
Ouch: Lionel Messi is in pain after Pepe stomped on his hand
The usually pro-Madrid newspaper Marca pulled few punches in its reaction to the incident.
After the match, coach Jose Mourinho said Pepe had played well for the team, but warned he would be punished if it was found he had deliberately stamped on Messi.
'I haven't seen it, but obviously if it is deliberate he will be punished,' Mourinho said.
'What I can say is that he did a great job for the team.'