Van der Vaart believes Real talent can handle Pepe blow

But Roberto Carlos keen to step into breach for the club dearest to his heart
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The Independent Online

The Real Madrid midfielder Rafael van der Vaart does not believe his side need to bring in any new faces to cover the loss of injured centre-back Pepe.

Pepe is set to be sidelined for around six months after damaging knee ligaments during Saturday's game with Valencia when he landed awkwardly following an aerial challenge just before half-time. That timescale would rule the influential Portugal international out of the remainder of the La Liga season, plus Madrid's Champions League campaign, while it has also put into doubt the 26-year-old's World Cup chances as well.

Losing Pepe is bad news for Madrid as he has made a huge impact since joining from Porto for €30m in 2007, with the sporting director Jorge Valdano on Sunday describing the pacey defender as "irreplaceable".

Valdano also admitted Real would be discussing the possibility of signing a new player during the January transfer window, but Van der Vaart feels there is already enough talent in to cover for the loss of Pepe.

"We have plenty of players who can play in the centre of defence. There are [Christoph] Metzelder, [Ezequiel] Garay, (Raul) Albiol, while Sergio Ramos can also play in this position... I don't think we need to sign anyone," said the Dutch international.

"We are sad [about Pepe] because it is a serious injury. He is one of the best defenders in the world. We are supporting him in any way we can. We have tried to cheer him up, but it is still hard to find words."

One player who admits he would love to be given the chance to help Madrid out is former club legend Roberto Carlos. The ex-Brazil international, who enjoyed a hugely successful 11-year spell at Bernabeu before leaving in 2007, is now 36-years-old but he still believes he could do a job for the Spanish giants.

"Football is my life and the club that I carry in my heart are Real Madrid," he told Marca. "For me it would be a dream to return to my home, to the Bernabeu and help this team win titles. I know that I can be Pepe's replacement. If I returned I would be the happiest man in the world."

Roberto Carlos is currently negotiating the end of his contract with Turkish side Fenerbahce so he can leave the club in December and has been linked with a move to Brazilian outfit Corinthians, who the veteran defender said he has a verbal agreement with. "There is nothing signed [with Corinthians], but if Real Madrid called me I would go right now," added the left-back.

Meanwhile, Pepe, who is to undergo an operation on his knee, has given thanks for the messages of support he has received. He said on the Real Madrid website: "On Saturday after the game and on Sunday I went through some difficult times.

"Today I feel much better to be able to begin the recovery and follow the plan of rehabilitation. The most important thing is to thank the people who have supported me. Everyone has been phenomenal to me.

"I'm grateful to the club, to my team-mates, to all those who have left messages of support through the Real Madrid website... I will dedicate my first games back to them."