Few players in the modern era of world football have divided opinion quite like Sergio Ramos.
If you’re a Madridista or simply prefer a win-at-all-costs mentality, the centre-back is probably your man. If your allegiances lie with Barcelona, Atletico Madrid or Mohamed Salah, however, you’re most likely to be not so enamoured with the Real captain.
During his remarkable career at the Santiago Bernabeu, Ramos has won 21 major trophies, including four La Liga titles, four UEFA Champions League triumphs - three of which were consecutive - two Copa del Reys, three UEFA Super Cups, and four FIFA Club World Cups.
It’s not just at club level where Ramos has conquered. Spain’s all-time most capped player was part of a golden era for the national side and helped La Roja win three consecutive major tournaments: two European Championships in 2008 and 2012, as well as the 2010 World Cup.
Rightly lauded for his commanding displays defensively, Ramos has also proved adept at contributing at the other end for club and country. The most notable of Ramos’ strikes came in the 2014 Champions League Final when his 93rd-minute header flew past Thibaut Courtois to force extra-time, and ultimately help Los Blancos claim ‘La Decima’ – their 10th European Cup.
That goal is one of a hugely impressive 91 strikes in 640 appearances for Real Madrid, and the Andalusian has scored in 16 consecutive La Liga seasons for Sevilla and Los Blancos. His goal-scoring exploits don’t end there… Ramos is very prolific from the penalty spot and assumed the mantle of Real’s penalty-taker after the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in 2018.
We couldn’t discuss Ramos without mentioning the disciplinary record.
After all, one doesn’t become the most carded player in La Liga history (167 yellows, 20 reds if anyone’s wondering) for no reason. Ramos’ knack for the ‘dark arts’ has landed him in hot water more often than a tea bag it seems throughout his long career.
His dismissal in Los Merengues’ 2-1 defeat to Manchester City in last month’s round of 16 first leg meant he equalled the most-red cards in Champions League history, with four alongside Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Edgar Davids.
Despite being sent off 26 times in all competitions, there is no denying the stellar leadership qualities that Ramos regularly displays in his role as captain for both Real and Spain.
After the departure of club legend Iker Casillas to Porto, Ramos was handed the Real armband in 2015 and under his on-field stewardship, they would rule Europe for three consecutive years. There’s no doubt Ramos’ leadership has played a pivotal role in what was a golden period in modern Real Madrid history.
How much longer Ramos will exert influence on events at the Bernabeu remains to be seen. With his contract set to expire in June 2021 and talks have not yet reached a conclusion, we could be about to enter the final chapter of what has been a momentous career for one of the game’s modern greats.