El Centrocampista

Why every team needs a player like Pepe

AP Images

When it comes down to it, there are really two types of football player, the steely tanned pretty boy striker with the faux hawk and then, there are all the rest.

The pitch, while traditionally a brutal battle zone, has somehow been converted into an egocentric catwalk. Players, young and old, fight to showcase their individual style, but more often than not, it borders on the absurd. In teams around the world, you can find a bit of everything, from Neymar’s tinted crest to Ibrahimovic’s slick new pirate style. And in Spain, you can always count on a good mix of diamond-studded euro-glam mixed with hardedge tattoo sleeves.

So, just what does a player’s style say about his game strategy? Well, even with all the hair gel in the world, no amount of personal primping can cover up a player’s most telling assent: the eyes. Watch Puyol’s gaze right before he throws his brick house body towards a whipped-in corner. Look at the smirky concentration in Cristiano’s eyes seconds before he takes a penalty. Messi’s squinty glance a mere milli-second before the kick and subsequent goal. It’s that dog bird focus that makes the player, not the hairstyle.

However, there is one player who has never revealed what goes on inside his head and perhaps, we’re all just better off that way. Képler Laveran Lima Ferreira, otherwise known as Pepe to you and me, was recruited by Real Madrid in 2007 under Bernd Schuster’s first term and ever since he signed on that dotted line, he has never failed to shock fans, foes and teammates with his hotheaded behavior. He’s unreadable, unpredictable, and probably one of the strongest (and most controversial) players in football today.

Who can forget his first major headline with Madrid? The shocking bloody fight with teammate Javier Balboa during a training session was barely a year after he joined the club. And certainly no one can forget Pepe’s Pro Wresting attack on Getafe’s Javier Casquero in 2009 which included a nasty take down, some straight kicks to the shin and head, only to be pummeled again to the ground and trampled on like a dirty rug.

After five years of time to bond with his teammates, one would think that Pepe has come to terms with his temper, grown as a man and a footballer, and above all, learned to control his spontaneous fits of rage. No, he hasn’t. His most recent premeditated stomping on Saint Messi’s hand shows you that no, he hasn’t matured; he’s just grown better at being bad.

Yes, I know, violence has no place on the pitch, but we all know that there’s a line. It’s just a very blurry line. This isn’t a clean game and you know it; the reality is that it’s all just a matter of what the referees see and, for Pepe especially, what they don’t see.

Please don’t accuse me of encouraging violence. I don’t condone Pepe’s actions, but I will stand by his strategy of being that guy; the one that you don’t mess with. For any opposing team, he’s a dangerous distraction and that’s invaluable to Madrid.

After all, are we really talking about rabid rage here or is it just plain cold calculation?

His advantage is his mind game. Pepe has turned his natural brutish inability to control himself into a cunning strategy, provoking fear and uneasiness among even the steeliest of players. He is the Mike Tyson of Spanish football, willing to let his short fuse explode at any random moment, throw his hands up and evilly smirk as he just saunters away laughing to himself.

Say what you will about his actions, but Pepe is the ultimate defence; willing to do what others won’t. Pepe does the dirty work, whether he’s asked to or not, and I don’t think Mourinho has any problem using that to his advantage. No, it’s not pleasant to watch and I can already hear your argument: “That’s not football”. Well, neither are karate kicks to the chest or leg breaking “entradas”.

Like it or not, Pepe belongs at Real Madrid; he’s the heart and the darkness of the team all rolled into one slowly ticking time bomb. He may be a lunatic, but he’s Madrid’s lunatic. It’s dangerous and ugly, but that type of fierce loyalty isn’t always pretty.

Pepe is the sniper waiting in the trees to shoot a bullet just past your ear. Then he’ll climb down the tree, throw his gun onto the ground and come at you with his fists. Why? Because it just strikes his fancy. He’s nobody’s angel, but he’s a damn good defender. You’ll never know his next move, and better yet, neither will his opponents.


For more from Nicole  Follow her on Twitter  and visit her blog at Pass the Ham?


  1. FCB1899

    9 March, 2012 at 16:36

    Apparently he is a nice guy off the pitch! I can’t forgive him for stamping on Messi though.

  2. Nicole Jewell

    9 March, 2012 at 16:48

    Yes, that was pretty dirty. I think Pepe just snaps when he sees someone on the ground. It’s too hard for him to resist…


    9 March, 2012 at 22:58

    Soy fan del Barca, y Pepe me cae fatal, esta loco, pero si tuviera que fichar a un central para sustituir a Puyol, no dudaria en fichar a Pepe. Great Article!

  4. Luis

    10 March, 2012 at 18:47

    Estoy contigo Daniel. Pepe es odiado por todos los rivales, pero a mi me gustaría tener uno así en mi equipo (salvo cuando se le va la cabeza).
    Saludos y muy buen articulo!.

  5. nachoelcalvo

    11 March, 2012 at 21:54

    I am Real Madrid supporter since I was a child and in my opinion, Pepe doesn’t diserve wear the Real Madrid jearsey. Real Madrid is known for being the best club in history. As a Real Madrid player, you must behave as a gentleman in and out the pitch …

  6. Drey

    14 October, 2012 at 06:15

    Pepe is the best central defender in the world. There is no other central defender who can defend players like Messi and players like Drogba/Falcao with the same ease. Second best is Thiago Silva.

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