You look at Pepe’s résumé and you have a question: what is this man still running?
You hear the flash at the end of the game against Antwerp and you can see the tremendous passion for the game. Due to the various dimensions that the word ‘game’ encompasses here: activity, belonging to a team, identification with a cause, professional fulfillment, and personal satisfaction.
The multiple stories of the end of their careers football players have – in the overwhelming majority – some constant points: the difficulty of adapting to new habits, the anguish of the lack of routines, the lack of a sense of belonging, of the group, of the dressing room, the feeling of emptiness.
But there are also opposite cases: no longer having pleasure in the activity, patience to train, and predisposition to sacrifice (physical, family or worldly) often hastens the decision to stop playing.
Competitive as he is, Pepe may miss it all when his time is up. Natural. deprivation.
But, surely, he doesn’t lack the motivation to train every day, to overcome injuries, to mark the best opponents, to dedicate a goal to his mother, on her birthday. At 40 years and 254 days!
Nine years ago, when Pepe was still on a roll at Real Madrid, Francesco Totti scored in the Champions League at the age of 38 years and 59 days. No one over the age of 37 had ever scored a goal in the competition. It seemed unbeatable. Seemed… He was already the oldest outfield player to play in the competition and the oldest to score in the knockout phase of a World Cup.
Pepe will always say that the titles he has won are the most important thing. Nothing could be more certain. Football is a team sport. And Pepe is one of those cases where individual prominence only makes sense because it represents sacrifice for the team. That is also why he deserves these individual records, marks that should last for many years to come.
Pepe is a tough guy. In every aspect. He’s been through a lot, he’s had excesses on the field, he’s faced fierce criticism. He managed to turn it around. As he said, he knows that he has little time left; that it remains at this level.
The proverb mixes Portugal and Brazil. Just like Pepe. Life is two days and Carnival is three.
Pepe’s professional career spans at least 23 years.