Real Madrid: Ramos' legacy and his ability to grab headlines
Following the recent saga over Sergio Ramos' future, Robbie Dunne looks at a Madrid great whose legacy nevertheless remains uncertain.
Few things are more unsettling for an opposition player than to see Sergio Ramos strut forward for a Real Madrid corner. For a centre-back, his 84 with Madrid has him first on the all-time goalscorers' list for defenders in LaLiga. Likewise, his 25 red cards are the most by any player in LaLiga; for better and worse, this is who Ramos is. The confidence he glides around the field with, the devilment in his eyes to cause maximum destruction. What’s almost worst, however, is the general inevitability of it all. From Lisbon to La Coruña, the bigger the venue, the more time that had expired, the brighter the spotlight, the more impossible the task, the more likely Ramos was to do something to wrestle your attention from the ball and onto him.
Hailing from Seville in Andalusia, where they are said to laugh a little louder, a little longer. Where they tend to be wittier and live life that little bit more to the full, he has been likened to the Spanish matador, literally, risking life and limb for his career and the fans. The more drama, the better. It is what sets Ramos apart but it could also hurt his legacy if he continues down this path after what was a needless season filled with embarrassing moments.
Attention-seeking Ramos makes himself poster boy of season of failure
In a season where Madrid's incompetence was so complete that no one individual could really be singled out, Ramos nevertheless did a pretty good job of making himself the face of their failure. The culmination of their humiliation came against Ajax at the Santiago Bernabéu when they capitulated 4-1. Ramos missed that game. He had already endured his most cringe-inducing episode of the season earlier that week. He forced a yellow card against the Eredivisie side when he pulled at Kasper Dolberg in the first leg to clean his slate for the quarter-finals and beyond. Then he was suspended when he admitted as much after the game in the mixed zone. In one fell swoop, he compounded that shame by being taped for an upcoming documentary about his life as Madrid fell to a team of upstarts. In a season to forget for everyone at the club, Ramos has plenty of competition for his more forgettable, regrettable moment.
In 2015, reports emerged that Ramos was on Manchester United’s radar. But some fairly tame speculation later and a quick flick of the wrist on a new contract and Ramos was the proud owner of a new and improved deal.
“This is not about money,” Ramos said at his most recent press conference after people interpreted reports of a move to China as another Florentino Pérez shakedown. He denied that he ever wanted to leave Real Madrid, however, and was forced out of the shadows and into the press room to say as much.
Pérez had played it perfectly, if that was in fact his plan when he went on Spanish radio and revealed Ramos’ Chinese proposal. It forced Ramos to speak where he explained that he was a Madridista and wanted to be one for life. He didn’t get a new deal because he was already the highest-paid player at the club and all he got from it was a headache and headlines. Ramos loves the latter, but not necessarily the former. It also sets the tone after Cristiano Ronaldo’s departure. No longer will Pérez be held to ransom when someone wants a new deal. Ramos is a legend at the club but he’s not Ronaldo special. He doesn’t score 50 goals a season and Madrid probably won’t ever have another player like him. So if you want more favourable terms, either get a club to pay the infamously inflated release clause, or stop talking and get back to work.
Few players and people are able to turn the attention on himself even when attention is the last thing you might want. On nights at the Bernabéu and all over Spain when Madrid players were assessing the field, not to find space and exploit their opponents weaknesses, but to find the quickest escape route off off it once the whistle blew and into the safe confines of, pretty much, anywhere else, Ramos was always there, ready to get sucked in. The manita against Barcelona was one particular example when he swiped out at Lionel Messi as he slinked between defenders and proceeded to push and punch his way off the field.
When you’re winning, you can write the headlines and set the agenda, but if Real Madrid do go through another trophyless season and Ramos walks away in 12 months' time, you wonder what his legacy will look like despite everything he has done at the club.