The 2016 Champions League final between city rivals Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid was a dramatic and exhilarating match, which saw Los Blancos repeat their 2014 success, this time on penalties.
Yet, if there was one blemish on the game, one player who showed just why he disliked in most football circles, that was the Portuguese centre-back, Pepe.
A brilliant defender, who puts his body on the line for his club, but one that is also prone to fits of temper, career-threatening challenges and theatrical play-acting.
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This leaves the question of do they really need to have this type of antagonist in a team? Someone who could prevent a goal one minute, then booked for a horrifying tackle the next, when there is a capable and much younger star waiting in the wings in Raphael Varane.
Pepe Never Learns
For a man who has received 55 yellow cards in La Liga since joining Real Madrid in 2007, many would think Pepe would have learnt his lesson and be a cooler head on the field.
Yet, as Atletico tried to break from their own half in search of the winner in extra-time, the Portugal international flung his leg out, catching the Atleti captain on his thigh.
A yellow card followed, which was surprisingly only his first of the night, considering he made a late challenge on Fernando Torres to concede a penalty early in the second period of normal time.
But that was almost a sidebar compared to two moments of idiocy from the defender, either side of his caution.
The first was whilst laying on the ground, Atletico’s Filipe Luis comes over, a light tap on the cheek later and Pepe is writhing on the floor like he has just been shot.
Incident number two came in the final minutes of extra time, after a tussle with Yannick Carrasco, saw him repeat his theatrics after a slight fingertip graze of his face.
To many amused fans, pundits, and players, referee Mark Clattenburg was just as disgusted with the defender’s actions.
This is not the first time that Pepe has looked like he would be more at home in a pantomime than on a football pitch, and with a highly-talented youngster in Varane waiting patiently, should it be the time that Real Madrid closes the curtains on the 33-year-old’s play-acting.
French international Varane joined Los Blancos in 2011 from Lens and has largely had to wait for his chance to become a first-choice centre-back for the Santiago Bernabeu outfit, despite many offers from top clubs around Europe.
Despite starting 44 La Liga games in the past two seasons, Varane was left out of the first eleven in both Champions League semi-final legs against Manchester City, with manager Zinedine Zidane preferring a central defensive partnership of Pepe and Sergio Ramos.
At 23, the Frenchman is fulfilling the potential that most top European clubs saw in him during his Lens days on his road to becoming, what many believe, one of the best centre-backs of his era and Real Madrid now must choose to promote Varane in place of Pepe, or risk losing a player who could lead from the back for the next decade.
Should Raphael Varane replace Pepe as Real Madrid's main centre-back? Have YOUR say in the comment section below!
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