Bale would get into Pele’s legendary Brazil team - Pepe

The World Cup winner and Santos great has hailed the Real Madrid superstar and believes Wales can reach the final of Euro 2016


Brazil and Santos legend Pepe has heaped praise on Gareth Bale and believes the Real Madrid winger is so good that he would get into the legendary Selecao team that beat Wales on the way to winning the 1958 World Cup.

Wales have been one of the success stories of Euro 2016, reaching the quarter-finals in their first major international tournament for 58 years.

Back at the 1958 World Cup, a fine Wales side featuring John Charles and Ivor Allchurch also made it to the last eight where they were defeated 1-0 by eventual winners Brazil.

Brazil boasted several greats back then such as Pele and Garrincha but Pepe insists Bale wouldn't be out of place in the same squad.

“Bale is very good, he has a lot of quality,” Pepe told Goal. “If someone plays for Real Madrid then it says a lot about their ability. Real Madrid need great players, and he's among the best.

“The 1958 Selecao team had players like Mario Zagallo, Garrincha, Pele - fantastic players. But a talented player such as Bale could also make that team.

“Do I see similarities between Bale any myself? There might be some, yes, but football has changed a lot. Back then we used to play with five or six forwards. Nowadays if you play two strikers, people find the coach to be quite bold. Bale is a first-class player, capable of winning matches by himself.”

Bale has scored two free-kicks during the Euros to date, breaking the deadlock in the 2-1 win over Slovakia before also finding the net from long-range in the local derby against England.

The 26-year-old’s set-piece style has been compared to that of 1958 Brazil star Didi – one of the greatest free-kick takers in history.

Didi created the folha seca (dry leaf) free-kick, in which the ball would serve and then dip suddenly – like a leaf falling off a tree.

Bale’s set-pieces have also been likened to Pepe's free-kicks himself. The winger was given the nickname Canhão da Vila (Cannon of Vila Belmiro) due to the ferocity of his shots.

“Didi didn't have a very potent kick, but his Folha Seca was simply amazing! The curve the ball made was incredible,” noted Pepe, who enjoyed 15 years of success at Santos alongside the likes of fabled forward Coutinho.

“I guess Bale’s free kicks are a combination of mine and Didi’s. My free kicks didn't curve as much, but they were a blast, also with the outside of the foot, in a straight direction.”

Pepe was a world-class winger during the 1950s and 60s and scored 22 goals in 41 appearances for his country. He was also a member of the 1958 World Cup-winning Brazil squad.

So what are Pepe’s memories of that famous quarter-final between Brazil and Wales, settled by a goal from a 17-year-old sensation named Pele?

“I got injured in Italy, right before going to Sweden, severely spraining my ankle and being unable to play,” Pepe (pictured above with Santos colleagues Pele and Coutinho) recalled. “I was angry and just stayed inside the medical department putting hot water and ice alternately but that got me a third degree burn on my foot that made my comeback even harder!

“There was a great atmosphere within the squad, though. We would play music and tell folkloric stories about Garrincha. But when it was time to play, we were serious.

“Back then, we did get some information on our opponents before games, sometimes even with clips of them playing. But we didn't have the resources that are available today, now you can even tell the eye colour for each player!

“We knew very little about Wales back then, only that they were a very compact team, just like England, and that they could cause us some trouble - as they did.

“We won in dramatic fashion, their goalkeeper [Jack Kelsey] was the best player on the pitch. But they also had some threatening moments, with fast counter-attacks, they were a very dangerous team in that sense.

“But we grabbed the win, we advanced to the next round and ultimately won the title with a very strong Selecao side.”

So are the current Wales team featuring Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Ashley Williams better than the class of 1958?

"It is hard to say, I don't consider myself enough of an expert on this current Wales team,” Pepe confessed.

“I do know the current team are stronger offensively compared to the 1958 side who relied mainly on counter-attacks.

“This team is more complete, the players think more and are more dangerous.”

Wales take on Belgium in the quarter-finals in Lille on Friday, and Pepe believes they have every chance of making it all the way to the final.

"It's a tough task, but I don't see much difference between Wales and the other sides on their half of the draw,” he insisted.

“I think they are capable of playing at the same level with all of them and even reaching the final. They have the quality and experienced players to do that."