Pepe: "Madrid was a centre-backs' graveyard when I arrived"
The central defender is delighted to be reunited with his old team mate Iker Casillas. “I spoke to him a lot about Porto, maybe that influenced his decision…”
Pepe is set to realize his dream by seeing out his career where he always hoped he would. Porto was where he made his name and where he was spotted by Real Madrid - joining the Spanish giants in 2007. Now, eleven years on and aged 33, he's back at Porto following a difficult spell at Besiktas, in which he had to leave due to financial problems.
At Porto, he will be reunited with his old friend and former team mate Iker Casillas. The goalkeeper was one of the first to welcome him to the club by posting a message on his social media accounts.
The challenging centre-back position at Real Madrid
The defender gave his first interview after returning to his old club and looked back over his career, recalling how difficult it was to carve out a place in the Real Madrid back four in 2007. At the time, Madrid paid Porto 30 million euros for Pepe - a figure which many felt was astronomical. “Real Madrid was a central defenders' graveyard. All of the defenders who had recently come to the club struggled to secure a regular place. But Porto prepared me for that. I spent 10 seasons in Madrid. Some great central defenders joined Madrid but none of them managed to esranblish themselves like I did”, Pepe told Porto Canal. At that time, Real Madrid's roster of centre-backs comprised Sergio Ramos and others who competed for a place such as Fabio Cannavaro, Gabriel Heinze and Christoph Metzelder.
Pepe explained how he ended up moving to Porto in 2004 after three seasons in Madeira with Marítimo. “I left Marítimo and signed for Porto. After living on an island then moving to mainland Europe was a massive change for me. For the first year, while I was still adapting, I wasn't myself and nor was the team doing very well but the last couple of years were fantastic”.
On his return, he finds himself in a team who are the big favourites to win the Portuguese league and who are doing well in the Champions League. And he's also back with some old friends, like Casillas. “It was great to see him again after all this time. He looked so happy and seeing that makes me very happy. When I signed for Madrid I told him a little about what life in Porto was like. Maybe that had something to do with his decision to come to Porto, I don't know… When I first arrived in Spain, he asked me if I spoke Spanish and I replied that I didn't. On my first day back here, I asked Iker if he speaks Portuguese and he told me that he understands it but feels a bit self conscious speaking. So you're better off than I was when I first came to Madrid then!” Pepe chuckled.