The Spain squad reported for duty on Monday with just the one Real Madrid player in their ranks, something that always feels a little strange. As I’m sure you well know, Los Blancos’ sole representative is the national captain, Sergio Ramos. To be honest, given the form of the likes of Isco and Marco Asensio, who have regularly been called up in the past, there can be few complaints. Maybe Nacho and Lucas Vázquez deserved a spot; they’re both playing very well. But Spain boss Luis Enrique opted instead for guys such as surprise pick Pedro Porro. Ramos is in despite missing Madrid’s last game, though his absence at Celta Vigo was not down to a flare-up of his recent knee injury, but rather a shin knock. By the time Spain face Greece in Granada on Thursday, he ought to be fine. After that, they take on Georgia in Tbilisi on Sunday, and Kosovo in Seville next Wednesday.
Sergio Ramos within six caps of men's international record
Ramos will want to play in all three of these games, because he’s after the high honour of becoming the most-capped player ever in men’s international football. He’s on 178, six short of the 184 Egypt appearances made by Ahmed Hassan, who’s no longer playing. It’s a mark the 34-year-old has set his heart on beating and he’s certainly pretty close now. He doesn’t necessarily have to play full games, or even half a game; cameo appearances will also do, and it’s already been made clear that Luis Enrique is sensitive to Ramos’ ambitions and is ready to help him achieve it. And let no-one be shocked by this, because the other players who have racked up record-breaking caps hauls have also had a helping hand. It’s an achievement that would be a feather in the cap not only of the Spain team, but also Real Madrid.
I don't expect Real Madrid's president to budge on Ramos' contract
As he pursues that record, Ramos continues to play his game of poker with Madrid president Florentino Pérez. All manner of talk about his contract renewal is being whipped up in the media by intermediaries - because Ramos and Pérez aren’t saying anything publicly themselves, but are whispering their points of view into friendly ears. Ramos would like two years and no pay cut; Pérez has offered him one year, with the option of another, and a 10% wage drop. Time is ticking by amid a flurry of bluffs: a fluttering of the eyelashes at PSG here, an admiring glance at David Alaba and Pau Torres there… Ramos twisted Pérez’s arm the last time he renewed, in the knowledge that Iker Casillas had just left and both at the same time would have been too much. Pérez doesn’t forget a thing like that. I don’t expect him to budge.