Mourinho won’t punish Pepe for Messi hand stamp

AP, Saturday 21 Jan 2012

Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho will not punish Pepe for stamping on the hand of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, saying that the defender’s apology was sufficient

Barcelona V Real Madrid

Mourinho said on Saturday “the player has spoken and that is enough” after including Pepe in his squad for Sunday’s league home game against Athletic Bilbao.

Following Wednesday’s 2-1 loss to Barcelona in the first leg of their Copa del Rey quarterfinal, Mourinho said that if Pepe had stepped on Messi’s hand intentionally it would be “punishable.”

The following day Pepe issued a short statement on Madrid’s website saying his action was “involuntary” and asking Messi for forgiveness if the Argentina forward was “offended.”

In his first appearance since the post-match news conference following his latest loss to Barcelona, Mourinho turned combative when asked about his problematic player.

“I won’t speak any more! How tiresome!” Mourinho said in response to the repeated questions concerning Pepe. “If you want to call Pepe a liar, you are in your right to do so, and later you will have to accept the consequences. Do it and deal with what happens.”

Even so, the former Chelsea coach said that Pepe was doubtful against the Basque side because of his fitness level.

“(Pepe) is in the squad and we will see how he is,” he said. “I have had to call up other players in his position and later we will decide.”

While both Pepe’s behavior and Mourinho’s defensive tactics were widely criticized in Spain, the Portuguese coach has received the backing of former Madrid greats Alfredo di Stefano and Zinedine Zidane.

Mourinho, however, said he listened to neither side of the debate about his team’s playing style.

“I don’t take either into account, neither those who help or those who hurt,” he said. “I am not paid to remark on the comments of others.”

Before treading on Messi’s hand, which the referee didn’t punish, Pepe had already been booked for barging into Sergio Busquets in the 17th minute. He also fell in the 65th minute clutching his face after coming into contact with Cesc Fabregas, but replays showed the Barcelona midfielder made contact with his arm and chest.

Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola, also in his first public appearance since the incident, said he took Pepe at his word.

“If he said it was involuntary, it was involuntary,” Guardiola said on Saturday.

This is not the first time Pepe has been in trouble for his play that sometimes goes beyond tough. The 28-year-old Portuguese international has collected eight yellow cards in 11 “clasico” matches and a red card in last season’s Champions League semifinal, which Barcelona won. He was also suspended for 10 games in April 2009 after lashing out at two Getafe players in a skirmish that included him stamping on the back of Javier Casquero after pushing the player to the ground, unprovoked.

Madrid travels to Barcelona’s Camp Nou stadium on Wednesday for the return leg of the quarterfinal.

Barcelona has beaten Madrid 10 times in their last 13 meetings. The midweek Copa victory was its sixth win against Madrid since Mourinho arrived in 2010.

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