Adaptive responses to hypoxia, including hypoxia-inducible factor signaling, allow the cell to satisfy its basal metabolic demand and avoid death, but these responses can also be deleterious by promoting inflammation, cell dedifferentiation and fibrogenesis. Therefore, targeting hypoxia constitutes a promising therapeutic avenue. Recombinant human erythropoietin (rhEPO) appeared as a good candidate therapy because its hematopoietic properties could reverse anemia, and its tissue-protective properties could reduce cell death and limit maladaptive cellular responses to hypoxia. Despite experimental evidence on the nephroprotecive properties of rhEPO, recent clinical trials provided evidence that rhEPO was ineffective in preventing delayed graft function after ischemic acute injury but that the normalization of hemoglobin values preserved kidney function deterioration and reduced graft loss. Our aim here is to provide a survey of the rationale for evaluating the administration of rhEPO in the setting of kidney transplantation. We will discuss the intriguing findings that emerged from the clinical trials and the discrepancies between promising experimental results and negative clinical studies, as well as the differences in terms of the benefits and safety profiles of the normalization of hemoglobin values in chronic kidney disease patients and kidney transplant patients.