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Pepe Kicks Those He's Already Downed

The Portuguese defender's history of violence

Stu Forster/Getty Images

My hero, Kurt Vonnegut, used to encourage writers to "put a villain in it," by which I think he meant someone like the Portuguese center back Pepe. Pepe will step on your heel. He will sweep your feet. If you rise for a header, he will concuss you with his shaved bullet head. For 90 minutes, Pepe will run at you, into you, and through you, and every once in a while, as he did to Spanish midfielder Javier Casquero in 2009, Pepe will literally kick your ass while you writhe on the ground. Twice.

When Portugal plays, all eyes are on the dreamy Cristiano Ronaldo (this includes the eyes of Cristiano Ronaldo), but the real action takes place on the back line, where Pepe uses his rangy six-foot-two frame to harass anyone who comes near him; he has been known to even foul his own teammates. It is such bad behavior that always provides the World Cup's most enduring moments: Diego Maradona and his "Hand of God," Zinedine Zidane being sent off in head-butt red-card disgrace 20 years later. With Pepe headed back to his home country of Brazil—which he shunned to play for Portugal—I vote the Portuguese pest as "Most Likely to Live in Infamy."