Ezequiel Lavezzi has apologised over the alleged “racist” gesture during a photoshoot for Chinese side Hebei Fortune.
The Argentina international, who is the world’s best paid player after joining the Chinese Super League side last year, pulled a face with his hands that is highly offensive to Asian people.
One Twitter user said: “I am a Chinese, I just want to say to Lavezzi get out of my country.”
While another posted saying: “This is so freaking insulting!”
But both the 32-year-old and the club have made statements to try and calm things down – given it was an official photoshoot.
Lavezzi said: “Per the request of the Chinese Super League, we took the official photos for the season.
“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.”
While the club said: “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.”
The Argentine was this week confirmed as the highest-paid player in football, earning a staggering £798,000-a-week at Hebei, coached by ex-Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini.
His first year at the club was cut short by injury, but he has played well in recent weeks as Hebei moved up to fourth in the Chinese Super League.