Ezequiel Lavezzi has apologised after a picture of him appearing to mimic Chinese facial characteristics went viral.
Former Paris Saint-Germain forward Lavezzi was captured pulling the pose while wearing Hebei China Fortune kit during a Chinese Super League promotional shoot.
It sparked an outcry that prompted the Argentina international and his club to issue statements to express their regret at the incident.
“Per the request of the Chinese Super League, we took the official photos for the season,” Lavezzi said in a statement issued on Sunday.
“We were given instructions by the official photographer and I was trying to make some interesting photos by making some funny faces, which would be used afterwards for entertainment purposes.
“I had no intention of insulting the Chinese people and did not do it with any bad intentions.
“I’m very happy to be here as part of the Hebei club. I have had a great time here with my team-mates and it has been a great journey. Every Chinese person around me is friendly and I love my life here.
“I deeply apologise if this photo has offended the Chinese public and fans. I will be more careful in the future.”
— Ezequiel Lavezzi (@PochoLavezzi) April 28, 2017
The 32-year-old’s club, who sit fourth in the table, added: “Since joining us at the beginning of 2016, Lavezzi has been getting along very well with the team and been loved by fans too.
“He has expressed his love for China many times too. Now we have communicated with him and have clarified he had no bad intentions and he deeply apologised for any offence caused.
“As a club, we apologise for our neglect in our work. We will be more careful in the future.”