Pepe is still going strong with Porto when he just celebrated his fortieth birthday, Pepe is progressing rapidly towards another European challenge: the ouster of Inter Milan on Tuesday in the round of 16 of the Champions League, after the defeat in Italy (1-0).
Flawless in his tackles during the match three weeks ago, the experienced defender who made 113 appearances in C1 could not avoid a setback for the Dragons, who were reduced to ten in the final quarter of the hour.
Physically, the Portugal international holds the way: an indisputable holder at the central joint of the Portuguese champions, the Porto captain rarely leaves to rest.
His leadership can no longer be proven, the veteran continues to give a voice to command the defensive line and manipulate his troops.
– Dolphin Jigs –
Pepe’s longevity is an achievement in itself: if he lined up against Inter, Brazilian Luso would become, at 40 years and 16 days old, the second-oldest player on the field to play in the Champions League knockout.
According to Opta statistics, he will surpass the former Italian AC Milan defender Alessandro Costacurta (40 years and 2 days) and was preceded only by Manchester United legend, Welsh winger Ryan Giggs (40 years and 123 days).
On February 26, his birthday, Porto suffered a shock defeat at home to Gil Vicente (2-1) in the Portuguese league, but the club and its supporters celebrated the date by warmly honoring him.
– ‘Big passion’ –
The day before, Dragons coach Sergio Conceicao had called him so harshly: “I can’t repeat it enough: He’s an exceptional athlete. I’m glad he’s turning 40 with such vigor, health and ambition.”
“If there is a player who embodies our fundamentals, it is him: the rigor, the skill and the ambition that he still has every day. All this is only possible with a great passion for football,” said Conceicao.
If there is no success against Inter, Pepe, under contract with Porto until the end of June 2023, risks playing the last European match of his long career on Tuesday.
Or maybe not. “If I feel that I can compete with my teammates, I will be the first to call the president (of the club, editor’s note) and tell him: + President, I am able to extend my contract with FC Porto +,” he said – he said in an interview with Sport TV, explaining that he would take His decision at the end of the season.
– Inter doubts away –
At the Boiling Dragon Stadium, Pepe and his team will host Inter Milan who are feeling uncomfortable abroad. The men of Simone Inzaghi, former Lazio Roma teammate Sergio Conceicao, have won just once away from home in 2023.
Since their victory over Porto in the first leg, Milan have faced two disappointments: the first at the end of February on the ground of Bologna (1-0), then on Friday in La Spezia Park (2-1), seriously mortgage the coronation goal in Serie A because they They are currently 18 points behind leaders Napoli.
But with the attacking power embodied by Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez, Edin Dzeko or Hakan Calhanoglu, the Italians can win perfectly in northern Portugal. Unless Pepe’s experience tipped the scales in favor of the Portuguese…