MELBOURNE Victory captain Kevin Muscat has issued an unreserved apology to Adrian Zahra for the 'mistimed' tackle that has ended the Heart youngster's season.
And the veteran former Socceroo also admitted that perhaps the fact that he got the tackle so badly wrong could be an indication that it's time for him to consider retirement.
Zahra will undergo scans on his right knee on Sunday afternoon as a result of Muscat's horrific, two-footed tackle as the winger was charging forward in the final 15 minutes of Saturday night's derby at Etihad Stadium, which finished all square at 2-2.
The 20-year-old was completely upended as instead of reaching the ball Muscat's legs ended up wrapped around Zahra's right leg and sent him cart-wheeling before coming writhing around in agony as Muscat was given a straight red card by referee Chris Beath.
Amid fears Zahra may have sustained damage to the anterior cruciate ligament, Muscat has been widely condemned for the incident and after enduring a 'sleepless night' he spoke on Sunday afternoon and insisted his only concern at present is for Zahra's welfare.
"Firstly having had a sleepless night myself I felt it was important that I did front up and accept everything that is going to be coming my way in relation to bans ... and also being criticised (over) my character, my performance (and) all that comes with it," Muscat said.
"I'm going to have to sit here and accept full responsibility for it. But as you could understand my No.1 concern, my only concern as a matter of fact, is the welfare of Adrian.
"It was an incident that I deeply regret, it was a mistimed tackle, dreadfully mistimed, (and) at no point did I have any intent to injure the player.
"But as I said my only concern is the welfare of Adrian, I wish him a speedy recovery, and in the next couple of days I'll take the opportunity to try and contact him and pass on my sentiments if he'll accept them."
Having given little 'thought' to exactly how lengthy his suspension could be, with some including his former Socceroos team-mate Mark Bosnich calling for him to be outed until Zahra is fit to return to the field, Muscat admitted the incident has hurt him more than any other in a brutal career.
Seven years ago he was forced to settle legal action after former Charlton player Matty Holmes sued him for $6 million over a tackle that left him with a badly broken leg, Holmes eventually receiving $600,000 in damages as well as his legal costs which were paid for by Muscat's insurers.
"Yeah I think so," he added when asked if he regrets this tackle more than any other in his playing days.
"As I said last night was a difficult night for us but I think it was important that the first thing I did was I rang the club and said 'Look I really need to do something about this' and as I said the tackle was very, very late and the whole incident is regrettable.
"Throughout my career I've played the game on the edge and I've never really thought of trying to hide away from the fact that that happens but I think my main focus at the moment is not what's happened over the last couple of decades it's about what happened last night and that's where my concern lies."
Muscat also conceded, when asked to try and explain why the tackle had been so badly mistimed, that it could be time for him to think about hanging up his boots even if he hasn't give it any thought overnight.
"I haven't had a chance to even contemplate it or think about it," Muscat said of retirement talk.
"As I said, people are going to have their opinions in what should happen and what they want to happen.
"At this point in time I haven't had the chance to really give it any serious consideration.
"Unfortunately I mistimed a tackle terribly, and maybe the game is telling me that it's passed me by, but I haven't given it any thought."
While conceding that the tackle was poor and that the club doesn't 'condone' such incidents, Victory coach Ernie Merrick was quick to leap to Muscat's defence.
"But I'd like to point out that in our six seasons we've been a team that's all about playing football and playing good quality football," Merrick said.
"We've won a couple of premierships and championships in playing good football and Kevin's been a part of that, he's been a true professional with the club and so I'm hoping that he doesn't retire after an incident like that.
"He's given so much to us and he certainly regrets it but I'm hoping the young boy's fine. It's certainly not our style of play as you know."