Real Madrid's Pepe has sparked a lot of debate recently when he stepped—deliberate or otherwise—on Lionel Messi's hand, in last weeks Copa Del Rey "Clasico."
Whenever "Clasico's" come around now, one can now unfortunately expect some sort of talking point about the uglier side of the game. Whether it be diving, gamesmanship or overly rough play, something sticks in the mind.
When talking about dirty players one has to take into account that sometimes there are mistimed tackles, even by the best and nicest of players. However, after a while it becomes clear, some acts, even though they may not seem so, are premeditated and as a result, dirty.
While Pepe always gets a lot of stick about his playing style, there is a player on Barcelona's team who may rank in his category as a dirty defender, Dani Alves. Lets take a look at the evidence shall we?
Statistics are always interesting to look at and so far this season, excluding national team games, Pepe has nine yellow cards and one red card. While Dani Alves has seven yellow cards and zero reds.
In the last five years Pepe has amassed 42 yellow cards and five red cards. Dani Alves has 61 yellow cards and five red cards in that span.
When looking at Dani Alves' information it is very surprising but, again, you have to consider the team Dani Alves plays for, and the fact that most of the time he is tracking players from behind due to his advanced positioning.
Whereas Pepe is one of the last lines of defense and commits his fouls with players running at him. It would be fair to say that Alves usually "takes one for the team" by tracking back and stopping players attacking a Barcelona defense that will usually only have two people back.
Still, Alves' card count is a high one. Cards alone do not make a player dirty though, and while Dani Alves' own collection can be explained away to a degree, Pepe's are a result of something else entirely.
The evidence speaks for itself on the field.
One of the last replays in this video of the Messi incident makes a very strong case for a predetermined act from Pepe. In it, you can see that Pepe looks down before his foot makes contact with Messi.
This act of aggression is unnecessary. I honestly don't mind the foul if Pepe does not put his arm up, with what I would deem as intent, to find Messi's face
The incident with Dani Alves is still a bit iffy for me. But whether or not he touched Alves' leg, Pepe came in studs up and there is no way he could have controlled the ball with his foot in that position.
If none of that does it for you, here is a little compilation of his acts, including some of those previously mentioned.
In comparison, when you talk about Dani Alves as dirty it has more to do with his diving. This red card against Mexico is about the dirtiest thing he has done as a defender.
So who is the dirtier defender? Dani Alves card count is high and maybe unnecessary, and probably has a little to do with diving too. But Pepe is the dirtier one.
Pepe has shown time and again that he is a dirty defender. While Dani Alves may have his trivial moments, Pepe "wins" this debate hands down.
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