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Spare a thought for Pepe

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The Portuguese defender now looks unlikely to be involved in Cardiff

Real Madrid CF v Club Atletico de Madrid - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

One really disappointing aspect of Real Madrid’s preparations for the Cardiff final is that Pepe is now looking highly unlikely to be involved in the Champions League final against Juventus.

He’s trained intermittently with the team in the past fortnight and although he’s reported to have recovered well from his two broken ribs, he didn’t train on Thursday morning with the squad and instead worked out in the gym with Fábio Coentrão.

Following two cracked ribs sustained against Atlético in early April, being fit for the final was always going to be a long shot for the popular Portuguese defender; but everyone was hopeful.

It’s even sadder with the knowledge that barring some last-minute negotiations, Pepe will almost certainly be leaving the club in the summer. It would have been great to have seen him leave with another Champions league medal.

There’s nothing sorer than rib injuries in terms of bones broken and Pepe sustained one of those injuries that can’t really be rushed. As the weeks went by, Real Madrid didn’t give any indications as to when Pepe might have returned; and it’s probably taken until now for Zinedene Zidane to have a clear idea of his fitness.

In the days after breaking a rib the pain is the only thing that is constant. Even with a severe bruising as opposed to a proper break, rib injuries hurt. There’s not much that can be done other than to take pain-killing medication. Using heat applications can sometimes help to provide a bit of relief but usually this only just takes the edge off the pain.

It’s often the same with the medication; more often than not this only scratches the surface in terms of pain relief and you simply have to wait until the acute stage passes.

Complications of rib fractures can include damage to the lungs, and this is the main reason why x-rays are taken following an injury; as opposed to proving or disproving the presence of a potential break. Immediate medical management of rib fractures does vary around the globe; but often the justification for radiology is simply to exclude any associated lung issues.

Fractured ribs without complications will heal by themselves if left alone; but any potential damage to the lungs needs to be investigated and excluded as soon as possible.

Players have been known to use pain-killing injections to help them return to play once the fractures have healed; but this tends not to work too well and getting the dosage correct can be tricky. All that happens is that the injections tend to numb the area around the ribs instead of having any direct effect on the fracture site; so in most cases these don’t tend to work. At least not to the extent required for any form of contact sports.

Strapping the ribs with some form of protective cushioning is also difficult since it’s virtually impossible to get the padding in the right place and held in such a way that any direct blows will be absorbed. Unfortunately, the protective padding worn by Rugby League and American Football players doesn’t really lend itself to being used underneath a football kit, or this would have been ideal.

As far as Pepe’s progress was concerned, once the initial trauma had passed and any potential lung damage had been excluded, he was able to start working on his aerobic fitness by non-contact training. This wasn’t ideal; but it was the best that could be done. Working in the gym and pool will have formed the basis of his schedule for the first month but he’ll no doubt have had one eye on the fixtures and the other on Real’s defence.

Looking at the playing schedule over the past six weeks and with the League matches plus the double-headers against Bayern and Atlético, it’s likely that Pepe will have found it difficult to be patient.

With both Nacho and Raphaël Varane vying for the central defensive slot alongside Sergio Ramos, he’ll have been wishing he’d got off a bit more lightly in that league game against Atlético on the day when the injury occurred.

However, along with everyone else in the squad, he’ll be there in Cardiff on Saturday; and cheering just as loud – if not louder -than anybody else. Irrespective of whether Zidane includes him in his final squad this weekend or not, Pepe will always be a winner as far as Real Madrid are concerned.