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How hard did it take to get here?
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How hard did it take to get here?

Portugal's thrilling 2-1 win over the Czech Republic saw Portuguese defender Pepe become the oldest player to take the field in UEFA Euro history at 41 years and 113 days.

Pepe won possession 11 times against the Czech Republic, more than any other player in the first round of this year's Euros.

"Everyone knows how hard I have worked to be here today."

On July 5, 2017, after ten years with Real Madrid, 34-year-old Pepe left Europe's top five leagues with a move to Besiktas in Turkey.
On January 8, 2019, Pepe, 36, agreed a deal with Porto of Portugal, where he began his European soccer journey 15 years ago.
It was assumed that this would be Pepe's last dance, ending where he started, a perfect career.
Everyone would understand if the 41-year-old Pepe was just a substitute, but the current Pepe is still a starter for Porto.

In the 2023-24 season, Pepe made 34 appearances for Porto in all competitions, 22 Portuguese Premier League matches, 7 Champions League matches, 4 Portuguese Cup matches, and 1 Portuguese Super Cup match, all of which were starts, with more than 2,000 minutes of playing time, 3 goals, and 1 assist.

On October 26, 2023, Pepe became the oldest non-goalkeeper to start a UEFA Champions League match in the history of the competition at the age of 40 years and 241 days in Porto's 4-1 away win over Antwerp in the UEFA Champions League group stage.

On November 8, 2023, Pepe scored a goal in Porto's 2-0 home win over Antwerp in the UEFA Champions League group stage, making him the oldest player in UEFA Champions League history to score a goal at the age of 40 years and 254 days.

Champions League 1/8 final, Porto against Arsenal, Pepe started all two games, facing the outstanding performance of this season's Arsenal, Pepe still showed superb defensive ability, although the final Porto in the penalty shootout unfortunately lost to Arsenal, but the 41-year-old Pepe's performance deserves everyone's respect.
Pepe only played one game for Portugal in the Euro 2024 qualifiers, helping Portugal to a 1-0 win over Iceland, but his experience in the game and defense is still very important to Portugal, which is why Martinez brought Pepe to Germany.

When he was young, Pepe was very tough and aggressive, with age, Pepe is now a completely different player than before, he is now a calm leader of the defense.

Portugal and the Czech Republic in the first group game of the Euro, 41-year-old Pepe started and played the whole game, 2 clearances, 3 steals, 9 confrontation success 7, 80 passes successful 74, pass success rate of 93%, and a key pass.

Where does this look like a performance that a 41 year old player could play.
In training, Pepe has always been rigorous and perfectionist.

Pepe said, "I do my best in every training session, I work hard and try to get as close as possible to the reality of the game, I think it's one of my vitamins."

"At Porto, training is much more difficult than competing and it has helped me to stay at a good level."

FC Porto start analyzing their opponents three days before a match, and Pepe is a day ahead of everyone, and by the time the analysis sessions begin he already knows the opposing team's strikers, wingers and midfielders inside out.
"I hate to lose, no matter why, I will watch at home the last time we met to understand what I did wrong, and after a defeat I will remember everything that happened before, whether I didn't rest well, I didn't eat right or I didn't analyze my opponent."

In life, Pepe also maintained extreme self-discipline, with Mexican brown sugar, whole wheat flour, yams and dried meats as his daily food.

He would constantly ask his coaches and other staff members where he could still improve.
Pepe now eats a type of honey that is only produced in one particular area because his friends told him it would boost his immunity.

Pepe still doesn't have his coaching license because he doesn't want to go to coaching sessions at night, which would interfere with his recovery, diet and rest.
What is it that keeps Pepe so motivated all the time?
In 2020, when Pepe renewed his contract with Porto, former FC Porto president Da Costa expressed his hope that Pepe would be able to play on the pitch until he was 42 years old.

In hindsight, Da Costa's wish wasn't too bold and Pepe is still a top defender now.

When Rüdiger moved to Madrid, he said he would watch videos of Pepe's matches and that he admired the way he "terrorized" his opponents.
"Pepe is not only great in confrontation, but also in organizing the game."

Before the start of this Europa League, Rüdiger again said that his most desired match would be to play with Pepe.

"My idol is Pepe. He is a center back who plays very tough and I like to play tough, so to play with him would be a dream come true for me."

Here's what legendary England defender Rio Ferdinand had to say about the current Pepe.

"If I was a coach, I would take footage of Pepe's games and show it to all young center backs so they can assess their position, preparation and communication , concentration, risk awareness, ability to use their bodies."
There are variables in Pepe's playing career next season, he has not been beaten on the pitch but Da Costa has lost the race for Porto's club president to Boas and current manager Conceição is set to leave.

Current Porto president Boas has made it clear he will not renew Pepe's contract, which expires at the end of June.

"In a way, what I conveyed to Pepe is that his entire future is tied to Porto, both from an emotional point of view and from a professional point of view, and as far as him continuing as a Porto player is concerned, it's not going to happen, as we've already explained to him, but we have a lot of respect for his career."

"It's a different path and in a way part of the new Porto is also thinking about lower wages and costs, I explained this clearly to Pepe and he understood it the same way, he'll make the decision he understands about his career and Porto's door will always be open to him."

We can't speculate on Pepe's decision regarding his future, and this Euro may or may not be Pepe's last game.

But no matter what Pepe chooses to do in the future, we must all pay tribute to Pepe's great career!

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