FIFA biased against Ronaldo - Pepe
Pepe says Sepp Blatter's recent comments about Cristiano Ronaldo show a clear bias within FIFA, but he and his Portugal teammates must not worry about such things ahead of their World Cup 2014 playoff against Sweden.
• Brassell: Ronaldo cast in perfect light
Blatter’s recent much publicised 'jokes' about Ronaldo’s on-pitch style and hairdressing expenses led to an uproar in Portugal and Madrid, with some even claiming that the incident ‘proved’ a conspiracy existed against the attacker, his club and his country.
Speaking ahead of Friday’s playoff first leg against the Swedes in Lisbon, Ronaldo’s Madrid colleague suggested to reporters that he believed a real plot did exist.
"We know that with his figures it was not normal that he had only won one Ballon d’Or, after having been to seven or eight galas," Pepe said. "And that just showed that lots of things happen in football. Now you [journalists] have to show what happens. It is unfair what is going on with Cristiano. I hope he can win the Ballon d’Or. But Blatter has opened up many peoples’ eyes."
Asked if he thought Portugal could miss out on the World Cup for such reasons, Pepe said he preferred to think that could not happen.
"Before the group phase ended, Cristiano already told us that we did not want to meet France," he said. "We got Sweden, but the most important thing is to focus on the game and not worry about these things."
Pepe said he knew what to expect from Sweden’s dangerman Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
"I played against him in preseason with Real Madrid and he is a great player," he said. "The most important is that we know what to do, to be very concentrated and to work as a team."
But Ronaldo remained a much better player than the Paris Saint-Germain forward, Pepe maintained.
"They are two great players, but nothing compares to what Cristiano does," he said. "He has unimaginable statistics and is the best in the world. I repeat, in this moment, there is no comparison."
Portugal got past Bosnia and Herzegovina in playoffs ahead of both World Cup 2010 and Euro 2012, and Pepe said he hoped such experience would be a help this time around.
"That gives us a certain advantage," he said. "Although the circumstances are different. We have different players, we have a renewed group, very young. We must be at the necessary level. It is a 50/50 tie, I do not see a clear favourite."