By Alex Taylor
West Ham star Dimitri Payet has claimed he did not mean to injure Cristiano Ronaldo in the European Championship final.
The attacking midfielder has come under fire from fans across the globe for prematurely ending Ronaldo’s final midway through the first half with a forceful challenge.
It has been widely claimed that Payet’s intention was to take Ronaldo out of the game and end the participation of Portugal’s principal attacking threat.
But the 29-year-old claimed he did not mean to hurt the three time Ballon d’Or winner after he crashed into the Real Madrid star’s standing leg, leaving the forward in tears before he was stretchered off.
“I came in for a tackle, full stop,” ESPN quoted Payet telling reporters after Portugal’s 1-0 win at the Stade de France.
“I got the ball back, but if I hurt him it wasn’t intentional – it’s not in my nature to be a nasty player on the pitch. There’s no question about that.”
Ronaldo is facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines in the wake of the final, which Portugal won 1-0 after a stunning extra-time goal from Swansea forward Eder.
Payet had a fine tournament but, like many of his France colleagues, he failed to hit the heights in the showpiece on Sunday night.
The former Marseille ace is attracting interest from Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain, who had already been alerted by Payet’s outstanding debut season in the Premier League.
Payet signed a £120,000-a-week five-year contract in May that made him the highest paid player in the Hammers’ history.
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