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Real Madrid have their new Pepe

Eder Militao's career path is mirroring that of Pepe, and like his Portuguese predecessor, the Brazilian looks set to become a stalwart in Real Madrid's defense for the next decade.

Real Madrid's Brazilian defender Eder Militao (L) vies with Villarreal's Senegalese forward Boulaye Dia during the Spanish League football match between Real Madrid and Villarreal CF at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid on September 25, 20

In Eder Militao, Real Madrid have found a stalwart central defender for the next decade, as was the case with Pepe 14 years ago.

Militao’s career trajectory has been similar to that of Pepe, and, like his Portuguese predecessor, the Brazilian plays with a characteristic level of intensity and physicality.

Both players shone at Porto before being snapped up by Madrid for sizable transfer fees. Pepe arrived in Madrid in 2007 for a €30 million fee, a record figure for a defender at the time and not everyone approved at first considering the Portuguese was a little-known 24-year-old. Similarly, Militao arrived at Madrid from Porto for €50 million in 2019 when he was just 21 years old.

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Pepe, Militao’s Real Madrid adaptation

Pepe's adaptation was somewhat faster but not easy given the injuries that caused him to miss more than a dozen games in his first season. Of course, when he was 100% fit, he became the indisputable starter and lord of the Madrid defense, initially partnering with Fabio Cannavaro, before partnerships with Raúl Albiol and Sergio Ramos.

He remained the undisputed starter until the unstoppable surge of Raphael Varane, who eventually managed to take his place. Of course, Pepe did not make it easy, and he continued competing for the starting spot until his last season (2016-2017), when he lost prominence due to injuries. After that, he left for Turkish club Besiktas.

Pepe in action for Real Madrid.
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Pepe in action for Real Madrid.Archive

Militao, for his part, spent much of his first season on the bench, amid growing speculation about a loan move away from the Bernabéu. However, due to the injuries issues in defense last season, he had the opportunity to break into the starting XI and he took great advantage of it. During the tail end of last season, the Brazilian enjoyed a series of impressive performances alongside Nacho in the center of defense, in the absence of the injured Varane and Ramos.

Militao indispensable for Ancelotti

With Ramos and Varane both leaving in the summer, Miliato has finally had the chance to cement himself in the starting XI. And the 23-year-old defender has quickly become indispensable for coach Carlo Ancelotti, playing all 900 minutes of Madrid’s 10 games this season. Militao has been a rock in Madrid’s otherwise shaky defense, chalking up 45 steals, 41 duels won and 15 interceptions in seven LaLiga games this season.

Militao’s career path is mirroring that taken by Pepe and like the Portuguese, he aims to write his name into the Real Madrid history books over a long and successful career at the Bernabéu. Pepe, of course, has already achieved that and, if Militao continues on this path, he will undoubtedly be able to follow in the footsteps of his predecessor.


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