Real Madrid's Pepe apologized to Lionel Messi for stepping on the Barcelona star’s hand in Wednesday's Copa del Rey match but insisted the act was "involuntary."
“As far as the play with Leo Messi, I want to say that it was an involuntary act,” Pepe told Real Madrid’s website Thursday. “Even so, if Messi is offended, I ask his forgiveness because I want to defend my team and club … It never passed through my head to cause harm to a fellow professional.”
Pepe, who was widely criticized for the incident, doesn't exactly have a strong record of exemplary behavior. At one point in the game, which Barcelona rallied to win, 2-1, he fell to the ground clutching his face after coming into contact with Cesc Fabregas, but replays showed Fabregas never touched him in the face.
Pepe's disciplinary history includes eight yellow cards and one red card in 11 “clasico” games. The Brazilian-born Portugal international received a 10-game ban in April 2009 for an incident in a match against Madrid rival Getafe.