MADRID (AFP) - Real Madrid defender Pepe has called on manager Jose Mourinho to have more respect for club captain and goalkeeper Iker Casillas in another sign of friction at the Spanish giants.
Casillas broke his hand in January and was replaced by Diego Lopez.
Mourinho said on Friday that he wished he had been able to sign Lopez in 2011.
However, Pepe said after Saturday's 4-3 win over Valladolid that the dressing room is united behind Casillas and Mourinho ought to show more support towards the 31-year-old.
"We have to have a little more respect for Iker," he told Canal Plus.
"The declarations of the manager were not the most adequate. Iker is a player that is part of Real Madrid, he is an institution in this club and in Spain. He needs to know that as players we are with him." And far from backing down from his original comments, the Portuguese international reaffirmed his previous statements when he spoke to reporters.
"Iker is an important player for us and we have an important title (the Copa del Rey) still in front of us. We cannot underestimate anyone and we need to have respect for Iker who has given us a lot.
"We need to show love towards Iker because he needs it. He is a symbol and the captain that welcomes the players and teaches them when they arrive." Assistant boss Aitor Karanka though defended Mourinho and said he hasn't disrespected any of his players during his three-year term in the Spanish capital.
"I haven't heard Pepe's comments, but never has Mourinho lacked respect towards anyone in his three years here," he told a press conference.
"We have always put the 11 on the field that we thought was best. Here you don't play due to your status.
"A lack of respect would have been to not play a player who is doing well to the detriment of whichever player that was. There is no lack of respect."