Portugal coach Fernando Santos has hailed Pepe, describing the defender as his right arm on the pitch at Euro 2016 thanks to his leadership abilities.
The Real Madrid centre-back was a key man for Portugal as they beat Poland on penalties in the quarter-finals, booking a last-four clash with Wales in Lyon on Wednesday.
According to Santos, leaders are required all over the pitch, but he picked out the 33-year-old for particular praise.
“He has been a team leader from the beginning,” Santos said. “On the field, they all have to be leaders one way, some another.
“At certain times of the game, everyone has to assume their role as leaders. They are the right arms of the coach and Pepe has been that too.”
Pep and Cristiano Ronaldo will be facing off against their Madrid team-mate Gareth Bale in the semi-final, but Santos is unconcerned about the inevitable media attention on the duel between two of the world’s best attackers.
“We will not focus on that,” Santos said. “Maybe in Spain that is news.
“Players from the same team facing each other is normal and it is legitimate to talk about it.”
Ronaldo’s leadership skills were also on show in the quarter-final, Santos revealed, as he persuaded Joao Moutinho to take a penalty despite the midfielder carrying an injury.
“Joao is one of the players who are usually intended to take the penalties,” the coach said.
“Joao felt a little discomfort in the leg, but Cristiano, showing an exemplary attitude, said ‘Come on you’re going to score’.”
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