In 10 years at Real Madrid, Pepe won three La Liga titles, three Champions Leagues, two Copa del Reys and several other trophies – not to mention the heart of every supporter.
Pepe often found himself in the headlines over the years – for both good and bad reasons. A brilliant defender on his day, he has always been capable of moments of absolute madness. And you know what, it’s part of his appeal.
Here are just a few of his most memorable moments from recent years.
Not a good one, this. Pepe the diver, Pepe the schemer, is a Pepe in control. Not exactly likable, but you have to admire his cunning on some level.
When Pepe conceded a late penalty against Getafe in 2009, he was the exact opposite.
In terms of complete head’s-gone meltdowns, this was pretty spectacular. Pepe had already fouled Javi Casquero, then came two kicks, a knee in the back, two stamps, a couple of slaps to completely different players, and Iker Casillas looking very FFS, mate.
He subsequently banned for 10 matches and considered walking away from the game. He said: “If I feel that I’m not in the right state to return to playing, I will continue with my normal life and try to do something else to support my family.”
Casquero recovered to miss the penalty and Gonzalo Higuain subsequently scored a late winner. That all got a bit overshadowed, though.
‘Attack the day’ is your pretty standard fare motivational quote. It barely troubles Twitter or Instagram these days, but Pepe often took that advice a little too literally.
But the enthralling thing about the Portuguese is that he is indiscriminate in the moments he decides to go 22-carat Ewok. And in 2011, as Real Madrid coasted to a 3-0 win over Lyon to reach their first Champions League quarter-final for seven years, Pepe had no interest in taking things steady and being sensible.
After picking up a booking for tripping Yoan Gourcouff, he treated the Bernabeu to a host of acrobatic kicks and knees, culminating in Aly Cissoko being booted in the face…while he is stood upright.
Pepe still didn’t get sent off, which, if anything, is quite impressive.
When you play the pantomime villain with such relish, it inevitably comes back to bite you at some stage. For Pepe, it came at the 2014 World Cup, with Portugal already 2-0 down to Germany after half an hour.
His mistake allows Thomas Muller in on goal, but the forward undoubtedly goes down easily. A slight, but stupid, nudge with his forehead sees the referee brandish a red card as quickly as Muller fell.
The Bayern Munich man added two more goals and Pepe missed the crucial 2-2 draw with the USA as Portugal crashed out at the group stage.
If you live by the sh*thouse sword, you die by the sh*thouse sword.
El Clasico is one of the most theatrical and dramatic fixtures in world football, so Pepe understandably thrived on such occasions.
There have been stamps on Lionel Messi, awful challenges on Dani Alves, numerous clashes with Sergio Busquets – one of which he was on the receiving end of a stamp himself – red cards, goals, wins and losses.
In 23 appearances for Real Madrid against Barcelona, Pepe has recorded 10 wins, though he has made his mark in every match.
Pepe will always be considered something of a caricature footballer, too extreme, too utterly ludicrous for modern football. But the fact remains that he has spent the last decade amassing over 300 appearances for Real Madrid and 82 caps for Portugal.
In that time he has won three La Liga titles, two Spanish Cups, two Spanish Super Cups, three Champions League titles, one UEFA Super Cup and two FIFA Club World Cups.
As much of a puzzling parody he can appear, Pepe has evidently been one of the best defenders in the world over the last 10 years.
And his finest hour came last summer, as he belied his unpredictable reputation to resolutely marshal Portugal’s defence all the way to Euro 2016 glory.
With Cristiano Ronaldo limping out of the final, Pepe became the heartbeat of the side and was named man of the match, despite being an injury doubt for the decider.
Sometimes it’s okay to go back.
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