The normally loyal
Madrid-based sports papers rounded on Pepe on Thursday after the
Real Madrid defender stamped on Lionel Messi's hand during
Wednesday's King's Cup quarter-final first leg defeat by
The behaviour of the Portuguese international, who was
playing in an unfamiliar central midfield role, was "shameful"
and "intolerable," Marca wrote in an opinion piece, while As
columnist Luis Nieto said he deserved "general condemnation" and
should be punished.
Television replays showed that Pepe, already booked for a
late tackle on Sergio Busquets, appeared to deliberately tread
on Messi's hand about 20 minutes from the end of Barca's 2-1
win at the Bernabeu in an incident apparently missed by
His theatrical reaction after tangling with Cesc Fabregas
earlier in the second half, when he rolled around clutching his
face, also drew criticism.
"Violent, with excessive aggression, play-acting and a long
way from what the behaviour of a footballer in a high-level
match should be," Marca wrote.
"What's more, his problem is that he is a repeat offender,"
the paper added, recalling an incident during the 2008/09 season
when Pepe kicked Getafe's Francisco Casquero while he was on the
ground, an action that earned the Portuguese a 10-match ban.
"The Casquero episode cannot now be seen as an isolated one
but instead must be viewed as the sad reality of a player who
goes beyond over-excited.
"Pepe might be an excellent person away from the pitch - and
he is - but someone urgently needs to make him reflect and help
him to correct these shameful actions."
The 28-year-old published a brief statement on the club
website later on Thursday saying he had not
meant to stamp on Messi and it had been unintentional.
"I nevertheless want to apologise to him if he was offended
because all I do is defend my team and this institution," he
added. "I give my heart and soul and the thought of hurting a
colleague has never entered my mind."
Barca centre-back Gerard Pique told a news conference it was
up to the football authorities to intervene.
"If they believe that the action went beyond the limit of
what should happen on the pitch they are the ones who have to
take it forward," the Spain international said.
"I don't believe that we as a club should be going and
asking for a player to be punished."
A spokesman for the Spanish football federation (RFEF), which
organises the King's Cup, said they had no comment.
The outcry over Pepe's behaviour deflected some of the
attention away from Real's latest failure against Barca, who
host their arch-rivals in the second leg on Wednesday.
The Spanish and European champions' victory was coach Pep
Guardiola's ninth win in 13 'Clasicos' since he took the helm in
2008 and came on his 41st birthday.
His only reverse was in last year's King's Cup final, when
Cristiano Ronaldo netted an extra-time winner in a 1-0 victory.
Real coach Jose Mourinho, who told a news conference Pepe
should be punished if the stamp on Messi was deliberate, was
also subjected to severe criticism in Marca and As.
The former Inter Milan and Chelsea manager's tactic of
allowing Barca to dominate possession and rely on swift counter-attacks had proved a failure and should be abandoned, As
columnist Alfredo Relano wrote.
"Mourinho's latest pirouette was his worst," Marca's
Santiago Segurola added.
"Spanish football has seen many teams with far fewer
resources who have made life more difficult for Barca. And with
Real's next game is a La Liga clash at home to Athletic
Bilbao on Sunday.
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