Porto vs Juventus | Champions League Reunion of former Real Madrid teammates
Wednesday night will see two former Real Madrid players go head-to-head in Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo, as the centre-back’s Porto face the forward’s Juventus in the last 16 of the Champions League.
Ahead of the match-up between the two legendary Portuguese players, Pepe was full of praise for Cristiano.
“Juventus have the best [player] in the world: Cristiano Ronaldo,” he said.
“We’ve played against each other many times in training, but I’ve never played against him. It will be special.”
But Pepe is wrong. The two met twice in the 2002/03 campaign and on both occasions Cristiano‘s Sporting CP beat Pepe‘s Maritimo 3-0 and 2-0.
What’s more, that same year, they could have been teammates. Sporting signed Danny from Maritimo and he recommended Pepe, who came to try out for a week with the Lions.
“We needed 900,000 euros to sign him and we didn’t have any more money,” former Sporting director Carlos Freitas told Goal.
Pepe and Cristiano would not meet again until October 21, 2007, when Luiz Felipe Scolari gave the defender the chance to play for Portugal.
It was at Real Madrid, however, that they became close friends. Pepe arrived (2007) before Cristiano (2009), but he also left a year earlier (2017).
On Wednesday night, Cristiano and Pepe will be rivals. From 2007 to date, they have played 324 times together, with 228 wins, 54 draws and 42 losses. Pepe has not played with any other player more, and Cristiano has only done so with Karim Benzema (342), Sergio Ramos (339) and Marcelo (332).
Together they won 15 trophies. With Real Madrid they won LaLiga Santander three times (2007/8, 2011/12 and 2016/17), three Champions Leagues (2013/14, 2015/16 and 2016/17), two Club World Cups (2014 and 2016), two Copas del Rey (2010/11 and 2013/14) and one European Super Cup (2014). In addition, they have won Euro 2016 and the Nations League in 2019 with Portugal.
Cristiano has not fared well against Porto over the years. He has only beaten them once, and he scored just one goal in six games. The Estadio do Dragao, on the other hand, is special. There he scored his first goal for Portugal on June 12, 2004.
It was also at the Dragao that he scored the goal that sent Manchester United into the semi-finals of the 2008/09 Champions League with a wonder goal from 35 metres which earned him the 2009 Puskas Award.
“This is the essence of the Champions League, the knockout rounds,” Cristiano said ahead of Juventus‘ match with Porto.
“In the last two years we said goodbye earlier than we wanted to. I hope this is the start of a long road to the final.”