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Opinion: Pepe's Euro 2016 Final Performance Was The Antithesis Of His Usual Bollocksology

Mikey Traynor
By Mikey Traynor
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Cristiano Ronaldo's "Coach Carter" style of sideline management is credited with giving Portugal the boost they needed to get over the line in the Euro 2016, and with unexpected hero Eder being the man who got the winning goal despite managing precisely zero during his time at Swansea, these two men have captured the headlines after a poor yet memorable Euro 2016 final.

And that's not fair on Pepe.

The controversial Real Madrid defender has become one of the least popular footballers in Europe since arriving at Madrid from Porto, and with good reason.

The last article I wrote about Pepe literally called him a "dick" in the headline for the absolute show he made of himself in the Champions League final, because no word better summed him up. With the eyes of the world on European football's showpiece event, he acted pathetically and was an embarrassment to the sport. Enough was enough, this was Pepe showing his true colours in the only way he knows how to play. Or so I thought.

With the eyes of the world on the final of Euro 2016, there was no dirty play, no winding up of opponents, no feigning injury to get other players booked and stunningly little time-wasting considering the position Portugal found themselves in.

Pepe was absolutely brilliant. I was stunned.

His legacy will result in him being remembered as one of the dirtiest players to play the game. A quick youtube search of his name will not show goals or displays of defensive masterclasses, but instead stomach-turning incidents of foul play and dissent as well as some shockingly violent behaviour.


Along with Chelsea striker Diego Costa, he has become the 'poster boy of bollocksology' if you will. A player who you would be convinced takes pleasure in being a figure of hatred for the greater football world. He's done it all, repeatedly. Stamping, pinching, shirt-pulling, diving, play-acting, and basically anything he can think of to disrupt his opponents, and the game, to the point where many were left wondering if he can actually play football at all.

But he most certainly can. His stature at Real Madrid should serve as evidence enough, as since arriving at Real Madrid in 2007, he has never been replaced. Think of all the players that have come and gone from the Bernabeu in that time, think of all the signings made, and none of them were to replace Pepe. He clearly was a highly valued member of the team in a sort of "Yes, he's a bastard, but he's our bastard" kind of way, but you simply do not last that long at Real Madrid unless you are a player, and Pepe reminded us all that he can play throughout Euro 2016.


His 2014 World Cup ended in disgrace when he headbutted Thomas Muller, but Euro 2016 passed, for the most part, without incident for the temperamental Portuguese defender, who stood up when his country needed him most.


The Final did something different to Pepe. He played the game in an almost trance-like state, with such intense focus that it looked like he was possessed. He put so much effort in that he vomited on the pitch after the final whistle (which actually would support a suggestion that he was, in fact, possessed) and looked as if he hasn't realised what had happened until after that moment.

He was named man of the match, and upon collecting his award he explained that after Ronaldo went down he rallied his teammates to fight on for him.

This was tough as we lost our main man and we had all our hopes on him because he can score a goal at any moment.

When he couldn't go on I tried to tell our teammates that we had to win it for him.

The coach set us up very well, the subs came on at the right time too. We poured our blood, sweat and tears into this.

Who is this man? This player, unrecognisable to the bloke who disgusted those watching with his antics against Atletico Madrid back in May, who for one tournament decided to go against everything he usually does and for once just play football.


In the days since the final, a moment that has gone viral offered us another insight into the mind of Pepe. The Sir Alex moment featuring Nani and Cristiano Ronaldo, that has warmed the hearts of football fans everywhere, also featured Pepe stopping, turning around, and shaking the hand of a manager that he never worked with but respected as a footballing figure.

This is something those who know more of Pepe than what they see in the big matches will be familiar with. Off the pitch, Pepe has a reputation for being a very nice guy. Tubes of Soccer AM interviewed him prior to the Champions League final, and the title of that video was "Is Pepe the nicest footballer ever?"...

He's not, but it just goes to show that there is a switch that can flip in Pepe's head when he is doing his job that turns him from a humble boy from the favelas of Brazil, to one of the most despicable players of his generation.

So why did that switch not flip at Euro 2016?

Pepe is 33 years of age. It's too late to expect what we saw over the past month to be how he conducts himself going forward, but maybe, just maybe, before the tournament he thought to himself that it was time he proved that he can play football without the panto-villain-esque "dark arts" and general bullshit we associate with his game.

And the result was the highlight of his career. You can't help but imagine how highly he would be regarded if he was able to suppress his urges to be a nasty piece of work over the past decade and instead focused on defending first.

Sadly, we'll never know, because Pepe's heroic Euro 2016 final was the exception rather than the rule, and when he inevitably headbutts someone in the Champions League next season it will likely be forgotten.


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