REAL MADRID

“Who would you choose to mark Lewandowski...”

Pablo "The Surgeon" Alfaro holds the record for red cards in La Liga with 18. He helped school Sergio Ramos at Sevilla and chats to AS about his protege.

“Who would you choose to mark Lewandowski...”

I wanted to talk about Sergio Ramos’ 15 red cards in La Liga…

When I saw the red card [against Las Palmas] I said: ‘They’ll all be calling me now!” He still needs two or three to match me though, no…?

Three…

I think he’ll beat us even though he plays for Madrid [laughs]. He was a great student. He’s got a lot of games left in him. Who is ahead of him?

You and Aguado, on 18, and Juanito Rodríguez, on 16…

Ha! I made my debut for Zaragoza with Juanito. I was a full back and he had Fraile alongside him in the centre. I also played with Aguado there and with Sergio at Sevilla. I helped them all out!

How do you explain so many reds for Ramos?

Central defenders get a lot of cards. You tend to go up against the most talented players. He’s also played a lot of games. And the rules have changed to protect the flair players. The entertainment level in football has risen but it’s lost its hard edge. Think about all the legendary central defenders and their fame [for hard tackles] and how many cards did they get?

Hierro got 10 reds…

He played as a midfielder. These days referees pull out cards quicker because of the game’s evolution.

And Ramos plays on the edge…

That’s true and that’s why he’s the best. He and Puyol are the two best defenders in Spain’s history. He plays to the limit because he’s brave, quick and confident in his ability. Sometimes on the motorway you’re going at 120 and you you go to 121 and the radar catches you. If you look at the positive and negative points in him, the positive wins by a mile.

Luis Enrique makes the acquaintance of Sevilla's Navarro and Alfaro.

Is he harder that you?

No. He is a rash type, who goes in hard and wants to make other players respect him. That’s one of his qualities. He is at a big club and the truth is that the yardstick isn’t the same.

So his reds have more “merit?”

I don’t think Sergio will be that bothered. He is worried about the team and you have to look at his curriculum. Red cards are collateral damage in a football career.

Varane has only been sent off once…

And that was a bit harsh. Varane is from the new school with different qualities. He avoids contact. But at the end of the day when you have to mark Lewandowski, who would you choose?

Ramos…

There you go. I always have faith in him in the big games.

Does reputation precede a player…

For good and for bad… Referees know how each player plays the game.

And has graduating from the Javi Navarro-Alfaro been a curse?

No. He’s won the lot! Some curse. He is excellent in many aspects of the game.

Maybe now he’s a veteran he should control himself a bit more…

It’s a question of evolution. He’s not as impulsive as he was, he’s taken on responsibility. That and his physical attributes will keep him at the top for a few more years. Towards the end of my career I played 90 minutes without fouling anyone…

It is harder for a ref to send off Piqué or Ramos?

Well, they’re both central defenders, but with different styles.

Nice dodge…

In theory it’s the same for both of them. Piqué gets a few cards himself. They are from different schools. If they can get along, they are the best central defensive partnership we have.