Real Madrid defender Pepe believes Portuguese players are under a lot of pressure in La Liga.
After being named the winner of the 2012 Artur Agostinho award for Person of the Year in Portugal, the 29-year-old claimed he and his compatriots come under increased scrutiny playing in Spain.
“There is a lot of pressure on the Portuguese in La Liga,” he told Record, before highlighting a clash with Getafe’s Javier Casquero in the 2008/09 season.
Pepe was banned for 10 games after kicking out at the Getafe midfielder, and subsequently considered quitting the sport altogether.
“After Casquero, I was forever marked throughout the world
,” he continued.
“They still call me assassin today.
I was tempted to quit football.”
Pepe’s side are currently languishing 16 points behind La Liga leaders Barcelona, and the Real player said he wanted to secure an “historic” 10th Champions League title with Los Blancos this season in order to make up for their poor league campaign.
“We must be realistic, we are in a very complicated situation in the league. To earn la Decima would be historic,” he said.
With Real Madrid inconsistent on the pitch, speculation has mounted over the future of coach Jose Mourinho and attacker Cristiano Ronaldo, with the duo linked with big-spending Paris Saint-Germain.
But Pepe stressed that the future of his compatriots was entirely in their own hands, adding that he would not consider following them out of Santiago Bernabeu just yet, but that a return to his homeland was tempting.
“If Cristiano or the boss make the decision to leave, it will be their choice,” he continued. “I will not choose the same option just because they leave. I will make my decision at the right time.
“Porto is a club I would like to return to. It was a club where I learned a lot as a player.”
The 29-year-old added that he would love to see Ronaldo claim the Ballon d’Or early next month for his achievements in the game over the past year, but conceded it was unlikely he would pick up the prize.
“I would love Cristiano to win the Ballon d’Or, for being my friend, for doing so much for football, having been in the top three five times in the last six years, and for winning the league. But it seems he is not going to be the winner,” he said.
Pepe also revealed his pride to have claimed the accolade for Record‘s Person of the Year in Portugal, adding: “2012 was a very special year for me.
“I am delighted
to have received this award and I am grateful for the support of the people who believe in me.
“It’s an award of great importance and I thank my team-mates because, without them, I would not have succeeded.
“I receive it with joy and enthusiasm.”