Alfredo di Stefano and Cristiano Ronaldo have been historic and significant figures for Real Madrid, a team synonymous with success and glory. But very few players in the history of Los Blancos have been as influential as Sergio Ramos.
Generally, the more successful a club is, the more difficult it is to carve a place for oneself in the institution's history books. However, Sergio Ramos was always destined for greatness at Real Madrid; his role, importance and indispensability for the Spanish capital club only burgeoning at the club with every passing season.
In a Real Madrid career spanning over 15 years, the Andalusian defender has evolved into a dynamic and versatile presence and an indispensable member of Spanish football's most decorated club.
Since his arrival at Real Madrid, many great players have come and gone, some have since retired, while others failed to fulfil their potential. But Sergio Ramos has continued his march to football greatness with Real Madrid who have immensely benefitted from their association with the mercurial defender.
The evolution of Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid
Sergio Ramos began his career as a right-back both in club football and for his national side.
Even as a youngster, he distinguished himself from his peers through his ball-winning abilities and possessing an impressive array of passing skills for a defender. His early battles with Lionel Messi were legendary, as they still continue to be, but it is the Argentine who has always come out on top.
But the quality of Sergio Ramos is enough to contain most other players. His impressive performances at Sevilla FC compelled Real Madrid president Florentino Perez to acquire his services.
Sergio Ramos arrived from the Andalusian club on a record fee of € 27 million, a vast significant amount for a young defender in 2005. Ramos, then only 19, has since been a mainstay at Real Madrid. Although primarily a centre-back, he was mainly used in the right-back position with the arrival of Pepe at Madrid.
Despite his impressive defensive credentials, Sergio Ramos has always been known for his hard tackles on opposition players. The Andalusian is also renowned for losing his temper quickly, a probable consequence of spending many seasons with the hot-headed Pepe in the Real MAdrid dressing room.
In fact, it is interesting to note that during the course of his career, Sergio Ramos' game has become much more aggressive, and that has led him to earn more bookings.
With a combined total of 187 yellow and red cards throughout his career, Sergio Ramos is the most booked player in the history of the Spanish top flight. He is also the player with the most red cards, receiving 20 send-offs throughout his career; with his 19th red card, Sergio Ramos broke a rather unwanted La Liga record.
Sergio Ramos is the most booked player in the history of the Spanish national team too, garnering 24 yellow cards.
Sergio Ramos as captain of Real Madrid
Some players buckle under the weight of added pressure and expectations associated with captaincy. But it has not been the case with Sergio Ramos at Real Madrid.
Leading a club like Real Madrid comes with enormous challenges, even though it is the manager who plays a more pivotal role in the game of football. However, the captain also needs to stake his authority on the field because often games are won and lost even before a ball is kicked.
The departure of Iker Casillas in 2015 under ignominious circumstances paved the way for Sergio Ramos to wear the captain's armband at Real Madrid. The defender has since discharged his responsibilities with aplomb.
Although Casillas himself was a legendary captain for the Spanish capital side, with fans affectionately calling him 'San Iker' and likening him to a biblical saint, it cannot be denied that Sergio Ramos has overseen the club's success, especially in the UEFA Champions League.
Casillas is a Real Madrid legend, but Ramos may have already usurped his former teammate in the echelons of greatness at the Spanish capital club. By lifting three Champions League titles in a row from 2016 to 2018, Sergio Ramos has ensured footballing immortality, not just for himself but also for Real Madrid in the history of the competition.
In the Champions League's near three-decade history, no club managed to successfully defend their title, but Real Madrid reversed the so-called 'winner's curse' by completing a three-peat in the competition.
Sergio Ramos's ability on the ball
More recently, especially after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos has assumed the responsibility of taking spot-kicks for Real Madrid. It is a role that was at first looked at with scepticism by critics, but the former Sevilla man has taken to the role like fish to water.
Sergio Ramos' penalty-taking ability is impressive because of honing his ball skills over the years, long regarded as a rarity for a defender. He is a good passer of the ball and has attempted to align his name to the long list of modern-day centre-halves who can play the ball out from the back.
Sergio Ramos had always shown quality in the passing department, even during his early days at Real Madrid, which also enabled him to be occasionally deployed by the club as a defensive midfielder.
However, it was in the match against RCD Mallorca where he scored a spectacular 56th-minute free-kick in an impressive 2-0 win that set everyone talking about his Sergio Ramos' ball skills. Defenders scoring from free-kicks is nothing new in football; the likes of Roberto Carlos to David Luiz have done it regularly for club and country.
Yet, what makes Sergio Ramos's free-kick goal special was that nobody expected him to score, nor was he a designated free-kick taker or a set-piece specialist for that matter.
It is, therefore, safe to say that at 34 years of age, Sergio Ramos is a Real Madrid legend.
He has scored important goals throughout his career despite being a defender. Sergio Ramos' header in the dying embers of the 2014 UEFA Champions League final against bitter rivals Atletico Madrid forced extra time where Real Madrid scored three unanswered goals to win their coveted La Decima.
Recently, his penalty against Real Sociedad made him the highest-scoring defender in La Liga history.
With time, Sergio Ramos has only taken bigger strides. He absolutely deserves a spot in the list of football's all-time greatest defenders and captains and is arguably the greatest captain Real Madrid has ever had, despite his chequered disciplinary record.
The Spanish national anthem is called La Marcha Real, which in English means The Royal March. Sergio Ramos is leading both his club and country to march to his own royal tune. For now, Spanish defence is in safe hands.Published 29 Jun 2020, 17:47 IST