With his time at the club now over, Sergio Ramos leaves behind a legacy that, in the future, will be a benchmark for Real Madrid players to emulate.
It is happening at last. For at least two seasons now, there have been rumblings about the status of Real Madrid skipper Sergio Ramos at the club. But on Wednesday night, Real confirmed that he is a free agent. In some ways, it is a sad end to what has been a trophy-laden spell at the club. After all, Ramos was a key part of Real’s run of dominance in the Champions League between 2014-2018. Not only did he shore up the defence, he came good with some clutch goals too. Even with his injury issues this year, there remained a hope that he would sign a new deal.
Ironically, for a man who once claimed he would play for Real Madrid ‘for free’, the issue over his contract related to the money. Specifically, him being asked to take a pay cut due to his age and only being given a one-year extension.
Ramos wanted no reduction of pay and a deal of at least two years. Talks between him and Real Madrid president Florentino Perez failed to break the deadlock. As a result, the man who epitomised Real Madrid is now available on a free.
But, as the old saying goes, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened”. While there will undoubtedly be more than a few tears shed at Ramos’ departure, he leaves behind a legacy that in the future, will be a benchmark for Real Madrid players to emulate.
His potential was evident from the beginning of his time at the club. For one, he is the only Spanish player signed during Perez’s first stint as Real president.
For the other, he was signed for 27 million euros in 2005 – then a record for a Spanish defender. And he was only 19 years old at the time. No pressure then.
His early days were a precursor of what was to come – he scored an unusual number of goals for a defender, despite occasionally playing at right back or midfield when necessary. To be precise, he scored 20 goals in his first four seasons.
But he also picked up red cards on an alarmingly frequent basis. In fact, in his first four seasons at the club he was sent off 9 times – that averages out to a little more than twice every season!
Nevertheless, his ability was apparent to all. Strong in the air, comfortable with the ball at his feet and showing leadership beyond his years, by 2009 itself he was one of Real Madrid’s four captains.
Ramos continued to rack up the red cards – incidentally, he equalled Fernando Hierro’s club record of 10 red cards in 2010, despite having played 264 games less. No, that’s not a typo. 264 games less.
However, he also became a mainstay of the Real defence as time went on, eventually being one of the guaranteed starters when fit. At a club of Real’s stature, that is no mean feat.
He led from the front too. When Real won La Liga in 2012 after four years, he led the charts in ball recoveries for his side. He also scored four goals for the third straight season.
Indeed, as his career went on, it was his goals that defined him as much as his presence in defence. Never was this more evident than in the 2013 Champions League final.
Real were losing the final 1-0 to neighbours and rivals Atletico. But Ramos equalised from a corner in the 93rd minute of the game. Real went on to win the game 4-1 in extra time and win their 10th Champions League trophy, referred to as ‘La Decima’ by fans and experts alike.
Incidentally, in the same tournament, he scored twice in the semi-final against Bayern Munich to put the tie beyond all doubt.
Ramos would come back to haunt Atletico again in 2016. He scored the opening goal of the match as Real won their second Champions League in 3 seasons.
Indeed, Ramos has won Real Madrid a total of 28 games with his goals – an astounding figure given his main job involves protecting his own defence.
But Ramos’ mastery of football’s ‘dark arts’ make him a tough competitor in more ways than one.
Not only is he a master of tactical fouls, he possesses a reckless streak too. He has copped criticism aplenty for his rash challenges, many of which were even unnecessary in the grand scheme of things.
Never was this more evident than in the 2018 Champions League final. In a position of little danger, he judo tackled Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah and dislocate his shoulder.
In the same game, he inadvertantly elbowed goalkeeper Loris Karius and gave him an undiagnosed concussion. As a result, Karius wound up having an error-strewn night, with two of Real’s three goals coming due to errors from him.
It says a lot about Ramos’ image that he gains little sympathy when he is the victim of bad circumstances. Never was this more evident than the incident with Diego Costa in 2012.
The Brazil-born Spanish striker, who was at Atletico at the time, was himself no stranger to the dark arts. On this occasion, he managed to outmaneuver Ramos of all people.
Costa then – get ready – spat on his glove and threw the saliva at Ramos not once, but twice. The referee never cottoned on to it, despite Ramos’ loud protestations.
Yet few outside of the Real Madrid fanbase felt any sympathy for the skipper. Indeed, it was seen as fair play given Ramos’ own reputation, which definitely preceeded him.
That being said, he is sure to be a valuable addition to whichever side signs him. He’s currently linked to the likes of Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain and even Juventus, where former Real teammate Cristiano Ronaldo is.
But one thing is for certain – the world has not seen the last of Sergio Ramos, even if his days as a Madridasta are over.