LOS ANGELES – Real Madrid, in town for Thursday's Herbalife World Football Challenge match with the LA Galaxy (10:30 pm ET, ESPN2), have reason to look back on last season with pride.
They stormed their way into the record books last season. On their way to their first league title in four years, Los Blancos scored more goals (121) than any other team has in a season and earned more points (100), too.
In the face of such impressive achievements, though, Madrid defender Pepe believes the team can do even better, namely adding the Copa del Rey and Champions League to another La Liga title.
“We are demonstrating great desire in all the training sessions,” the Portuguese international told reporters at a press conference on Tuesday. “The team is reaching a very high level to face the start of the season and when Real Madrid begin the year, we have to be prepared to face all competitions.”
En Espanol: Pepe en conferencia de prensa
He specifically put the team’s readiness to take on the added workload down to a stronger bond not only between the players, but also with high-profile manager José Mourinho, who is entering his third season with the Spanish giants.
“We know each other better and it’s the manager’s third year,” Pepe enthused. “We understand his mentality and and we are prepared to face and intend to win all the competitions. Every training session we are getting better, to help the team and come out on top.”
And if Madrid are to come out on top in multiple competitions, they might have to tweak their squad just a little bit. Though much of Real’s core group of players remains intact, with a club of such stature, there are always rumors of comings and goings in the transfer market.
The biggest name associated with Real Madrid in the transfer market isn’t a potential signing, however, but a potential departure. Former AC Milan legend Kaká looks set to depart the Santiago Bernabéu, though Pepe underscored the positive contribution to the locker room the Brazilian midfielder brings and insisted he would support his teammate in any decision.
“I believe that Kaká is a great player, he is part of our team, I’m happy to be able to able to share in the locker room with him,” he said. “I believe Kaká knows what is best for his future. Presently, he is with us and he is playing for Real Madrid so we have to give him all the warmth we can.”
However, should Kaká leave, Mourinho might even opt for a younger look, as Benfica’s Belgian midfielder Axel Witsel has been heavily linked to the club, with Pepe commenting on the situation on Tuesday.
“The manager knows what the team needs. It is an issue between Mourinho and the president,” he explained. “Witsel is an excellent player and is doing good things on his team. If he comes to Madrid, he will be well received and if he doesn’t I wish him the best luck in the world.”
There are no sure things in the transfer market, so it is entirely possible that if the moves don't work out, Barcelona could be right back in contention for the La Liga title. As far as Pepe and Madrid are concerned, though, it is theirs for the taking.