MADRID, Spain -- Real Madrid's Pepe has apologized to Lionel Messi for stepping on the Barcelona forward's hand in his team's 2-1 loss in the Copa del Rey, saying it wasn't intentional.
Pepe told Real Madrid's website Thursday "as far as the play with Leo Messi, I want to say that it was an involuntary act."
The Portuguese defender added "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 received a yellow card early in the game when he barged into Sergio Busquets. But the referee did not penalize him for stomping on Messi's hand when the forward was on the ground in the second half.