Transitioning to Spain after life in England has not been all that hard for Germany defender Antonio Rüdiger — even if he won’t be known as “Toni” in Madrid.
With the presence of former Bayern Munich midfielder Toni Kroos at Real Madrid, Rüdiger had to be called by a different name. “Toni Kroos is Toni with us. The coaching staff call me Antonio, my teammates call me Rudi. Of course, they’ve already noticed that I’m a positively crazy guy,” Rüdiger told Sport1.
The ex-AS Roma defender cited former Real Madrid and current FC Porto defender Pepe as his role model. He watched the Portuguese stalwart in action and was in disbelief at how good he is.
“That’s right. I immediately have to think of Pepe. He was my big role model at Real Madrid, I always wanted to be like him,” Rüdiger said. “I used to watch videos of him straddling his opponents. I was still young and wanted to show everyone that I can be tough too. That was in my head. Crazy how good Pepe was. Not only in a duel, also in the game structure. Today, however, everyone at Real tells me that he was actually a very calm character off the pitch.”
Pepe has etched himself into Rüdiger’s favorites in his collection of jerseys, along with former Real captain and current Paris Saint-Germain player Sergio Ramos and Brazilian Chelsea defender Thiago Silva, whom Rüdiger played with for two seasons.
“He was the only player I ever waited an hour to get his jersey for, Pepe. Him, Sergio Ramos, and Thiago Silva are the three player names I’m most proud of in my kit collection. Absolute legends!” Rüdiger said.