It’s very difficult for a Real Madrid fan to articulate their admiration for Sergio Ramos. Perhaps because they owe so much of their happiness to him, perhaps because they relate to him, or perhaps it’s because without him, there would be no La Decima.
From his Sevilla days, it was obvious Ramos wasn’t normal. A powerful and yet athletic defender, Ramos began his career at right-back. And after an incredible second season at the Sanchez Pizjuan, things were about to take a dramatic turn. It was 14th May 2005, Madrid’s Galacticos were in town. The clock read 18:50, Ramos was lining up a free-kick, stood in front of him, a two-man wall consisting of David Beckham and Zinedine Zidane. Ramos decided to go for power, the wall, worth €115m, split, and Iker Casillas at full stretch was unable to get a finger-tip to it.
It was a special and significant moment. Because a few months down the line, the 19-year old was presented at the Santiago Bernabeu, signing an eight-year contract, as Madrid put their long-term faith in the hands of a remarkable teenager. And ever since, it still remains one of the most intelligent and future focused signings made by Florentino Perez.
What can you say about such a career? He’s truly one of a kind, and this season, he’s leading from the front, proving he’s still among the best around. But what I love about Ramos, is that he has reinvented himself, and now, not only is he pivotal to Madrid defensively and in terms of leadership, he’s also the club’s second highest goalscorer in La Liga. And it’s a feat which former club captain Fernando Hierro admires, someone who himself knows a thing or two about goalscoring:
“Sergio is absolutely remarkable. Years ago we defenders had more chances to score, because we would often play in midfield. But in today’s day and age, in the 21st century, Sergio is doing extraordinary things. [Gerard] Pique scores quite a few goals too, but Ramos really is an anomaly. His goalscoring record for Real Madrid and the national team is remarkable.”
Don’t be under the false impression that his goalscoring exploits are only deserving of veneration because of the quantity of goals though, Ramos scores when it matters, and that’s symbolic of why his leadership and presence have been decisive this past decade.
Since Ramos scored the last-gasp equaliser against Atletico Madrid in the UEFA Champions League final in 2014, he has scored 43 goals for Madrid. Of those 43 goals, 31 of them have come when Madrid were either drawing, or losing. Do you realise how impressive that is, for a defender, to convert big chances, on the big occasions, a task usually designed and tailor-made for forwards? But Ramos has made it a habit.
On Sunday against Real Sociedad, Ramos made even more history. His penalty to give Madrid the lead in a crucial contest with top-spot on the line, allowed him to overtake Barcelona’s Ronald Koeman as La Liga’s all-time highest scoring defender. Of course this statistic wouldn’t have been possible without Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure vacating the primary penalty-taking responsibilities, but someone has to take them, and someone has to convert them. Ramos does this better than most too. From a total of 18 penalties in his Los Blancos career, the Spaniard has scored 17, missing once against former side Sevilla, and yet, in the same game, he had another penalty, and buried it.
Ultimately, you wouldn’t be wrong to argue if Ramos is the greatest captain in Madrid’s rich history, and that’s certainly highlighted by Ramos appearing to be more important to his team than ever before. Games like Ajax at the Santiago Bernabeu in 2019, and even more recent examples, take a look at how the team almost capitulated against Eibar last week when Ramos came off, or against Sociedad yesterday, there’s a sense that Madrid as a team, and as an institution, aren’t quite ready to let go of Ramos’ hand.
In eight days, Ramos will have exactly 12 months left on his contract. Madrid know Ramos wants to retire at the club, a two-year contract extension is what the 34-year old is after, but Perez has always been unwilling to offer players above the age of 32, extensions exceeding a single year. But to anyone who watches Madrid regularly, they’ll know it’s a no-brainer for Ramos to retire at the club. Real have a huge decision pending, and if it’s not giving the legendary defender what he wants, it could prove to be an unfortunate deja vu moment for Los Blancos, according to Predrag Mijatovic:
“We cannot afford to let our players help other teams, because they should be ours. Unfortunately, it doesn’t happen at Real Madrid. Raul had great history at Real and left in a bad way, Fernando Hierro the same, Casillas too. Now they are talking about Sergio Ramos. His contract has to be extended, two or three years, it doesn’t matter. This guy has to finish his career at Real Madrid. He is important, almost a treasure of the club. Both for what he has done already and what he can do in the future, maybe not on the field, but teaching the young players who join Real Madrid on how to play, behave and adapt to the club. That’s what has to happen.”
The fact is, whether you like it or not, football and the success of your football team has a deeply sentimental and emotional connection with your psychological state. Certain moments define relationships. And perhaps this is why Ramos has such a pleasant bond with Madrid fans, an everlasting attachment, because he hasn’t only allowed them to dream, but he has made them live the dream. And for that reason, Ramos is eternal.