Seydou Keita has revealed his decision to snub Pepe's handshake during Roma's preseason friendly with Real Madrid came after the Portuguese defender called him "a macaque."
The alleged slur is said to have taken place during Keita's Barcelona days, where he faced Pepe in a string of heated Clasico fixtures.
Keita threw a water bottle at Pepe's head during the recent friendly after refusing to shake his hand, with it also claimed the Madrid defender spat at his opponent during the incident.
Keita opened up about his history with Pepe, reported by Marca:
Back when I played for Barça he called me a macaque, i.e. a monkey. From that moment onwards, I've seen him as a good-for-nothing. I haven't spoken about it in public before because it wasn't worth it, but that's why I didn't want to shake his hand.
It's unacceptable for someone to spit at me. I really don't see why I should have to shake his hand, since in his eyes I'm not a human being.
Nicholas Rigg of ESPN FC tweeted his thoughts alongside a video of the incident:
Keita insisted he has "no interest" in discussing the situation with Pepe, who he believes is "out of order." The Malian midfielder once again reiterated that, "instead of coming over and asking me why I didn't shake his hand, he chose to spit at me," noted by Marca.
Francesco Totti's goal settled the International Champions Cup match, condemning Los Blancos to their second preseason defeat in a row after the penalties loss to Inter Milan. Although little more than a fitness and brand expansion exercise in front of American audiences, Keita's clash with Pepe has nabbed much of the post-match headlines.
Pepe is renowned for his bad temper and willingness to overstep the mark during play. He was recently red carded for headbutting Germany's Thomas Muller during Portugal's opening match of the 2014 World Cup.
Shortly after his dismissal, Paul Hayward of the Telegraph branded the defender "one of the most thuggish players in modern football," saying he "was Real Madrid’s most incorrigible bully when Barcelona’s tiki-taka was tying the current European champions in knots."
The 31-year-old has received five red cards in competitions recorded by WhoScored.com since 2009-10, gaining a reputation as one of the sport's most argumentative, unreliable and frustrating players. His overzealous actions often appear selfish to teammates who are forced to deal with the aftermath, as noted with the defender's 37th-minute sending off in Brazil.
It's important to acknowledge Keita's claims of racism are yet to be proven. Neither has Pepe offered a response to the midfielder's allegation.
Both Roma and Madrid will be irritated by the situation, particularly as both clubs are currently aiming to draw interest during their tours of the US.
Keita and Pepe will hope to overcome such a situation and be a part of title-winning teams next season. Roma have invested well across the summer—adding the likes of Ashley Cole, Juan Iturbe and Davide Astori to their ranks—and should challenge the unstoppable juggernaut that is Juventus.
Real Madrid, fresh on the back of capturing La Decima, need to make a run for the La Liga title that currently resides with neighbours Atletico. Last season's third-place finish isn't good enough for a team who waltzed to European victory, but summer captures Toni Kroos and James Rodriguez should help overcome any slack.
It's perhaps lucky Keita and Pepe aren't set to clash during next season's domestic matters, but the duo could eventually meet in the Champions League. All eyes will be on the pair's reaction if this does happen, especially as neither have offered peace terms with the other.