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Ozan Kabak – who was linked with Liverpool over the summer – has defended himself after he was accused of spitting at an opponent.
Kabak was seen appearing at spit at Werder Bremen left-back Ludwig Augustinsson during Schalke's 3-1 Bundesliga defeat on Saturday.
The 20-year-old centre-back is believed to have been on Liverpool's radar as the Premier League champions weighed up defensive reinforcements following Dejan Lovren's move to Zenit St Petersburg.
But he has now found himself at the centre of a spitting storm, drawing criticism from German legend Lothar Matthäus as well as Swedish left-back Augustinsson.
"That was on purpose, a conscious action," said former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan star Matthäus while working as a pundit on Sky Sports.
The World-Cup winning former midfielder called for Kabak to face disciplinary action, saying: “Getting spat on as a player is the worst. I hope he will be punished."
Kabak, who was given a yellow card, has insisted he did not mean to spit at Augustinsson, and apologised to his opponent.
“It was not intentional – the view from the outside is deceptive," he said, in quotes reported by Bild. "I've never done anything like this and never will because it's just unsporting.
"This was very unfortunate. In any case, my apologies to Ludwig."
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Earlier, Kabak had been blasted by both Augustinsson and Werder Bremen's coach Florian Kohfeldt.
“It's not nice, it has nothing to do with football. That's not fair play, ”said Augustinsson.
Kohfeldt echoed that sentiment, saying: "That is of course an absolute absurdity that does not belong on the football field."
Kabak attracted the attention of clubs such as Liverpool, Manchester United and Tottenham with his impressive displays for Schalke last season.
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Excellent in one-on-one situations, Kabak made his debut for Galatasaray as a teenager before joining Stuttgart in a £9m deal in January last year.
He made just 17 appearances before earning a £13m move to Schalke last summer after Stuttgart were relegated.
Kabak has been capped twice by Turkey.
- Premier League
- Liverpool FC
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