Barcelona striker Samuel Eto’o has denied deliberately spitting on Athletic Bilbao defender Unai Esposito in an incident that has sparked a new race row in Spain.

The Cameroon striker was clearly seen spitting in the face of Esposito during the closing stages of Barca’s 2-1 win overBilbao on Sunday.

The incident provoked Bilbao manager Javier Clemente to launch an ill-judged reponse when he said: “Those that spit have descended from the trees.”

That remark has left Clemente open to accusations of racism, although he has subsequently denied any racial motivation for his comment.

“At first I didn’t know that it was Eto’o who I did it,” the former Spain coach told the Cadena Ser radio station. “He’s a great bloke but I expect he will regret what he did.

“I don’t make any distinction between the behaviour of black and white people. If it had been (Barca defender Carles) Puyol who had done it I would have said exactly the same thing.

“It’s more sporting to punch an opponent than to spit at him.”

“Bad behaviour has to be eliminated from the pitch,” Clemente added. “We are all sensitive about racism and we don’t give a good example by behaving like that.

“When I talked about people who had just come down from the trees I mean everyone whether they be white, black or yellow … Sometimes I should be up in the tree too when I give a bad example.”

Meanwhile, Eto’o has insisted that he had not intended to spit at Esposito.

“I didn’t do anything,” he protested to Punto Radio. “I didn’t spit at him and if it hit him I apologise, but I was not trying to spit at him.

“I did spit, but it was not at him.

“He made a meal out of it and that’s his problem, but I did not spit at him and if I did hit him I am sorry.”

The African hit-man also revealed he had spoken to Clemente after the game and that there was no ill-feeling between the pair.

“I had the chance to speak to the (Athletic) manager (Clemente) and he said many nice things,” Eto’o continued.

“We will talk again and I hope he clears everything up.

“These things happen in football, things are said in the heat of the moment.

“If I spat I apologise.”

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