Hebei China Fortune have have released a official statement to apalogise over the alleged racist gesture during a photoshoot involving Ezequiel Lavezzi.
Lavezzi, who joined Hebei from Paris Saint-Germain in a huge deal last year, was pictured making a slant-eye pose in an apparent attempt to imitate a Chinese person while in team uniform.
The photo was immediately highlighted on the internet, with a huge number of Chinese fans have chimed in to lambast the Argentine striker and demanding him to leave the country.
“The picture was taken by three Spanish photographers when the whole squad was in Spain for winter training,” read the club’s statement.
“As requested by the Chinese Super League, apart from the squad photo, a light-hearted portrait of every individual player is also needed.
“Every player, including Lavezzi, was demanded by the photographers to pull some funny poses. All those present knew that nothing untoward happened.
“Since joining the club in 2016, Lavezzi gets along well with every teammate and staff. He is also deeply admired by our fans. Meanwhile, he had expressed on several occasions his love for China,” it added.
“The club have communicated with Lavezzi about this incident and he said it was by no means his intention to discriminate anyone. He want to sincerely apologise for any negative effects this photo may have caused.
“We failed to realise in a timely manner the possible misunderstanding and controversy that could have sparked by this photo.
“Our club’s indiscretion was exposed by this incident and we will be in a better position to draw lessons that can help us avoid making similar mistakes in the future.”
Lavezzi, 32, is one of the highest paid footballers in the World earning a reported €500,000 each week. He has scored three goals this season in the opening stages of Chinese Super League this season.