Sergio Ramos became Spain’s most capped player on the weekend, but what makes him one of the best defenders and a polarizing figures in the sport?
The Real Madrid defender has set a new record for international appearances with La Roja, with him reaching 168 caps against Norway on Saturday.
Sergio Ramos is a name that evokes may things. Elite winner, prolific goalscoring defender, someone with a cocky demeanor, dirty player and one of the world’s best defenders. Many of these things are spot on.
On Saturday, the 33-year-old Real Madrid centre back became Spain’s most capped player. He surpassed Iker Casillas's record to achieve the incredible feat. Ramos has now played 168 times for La Roja, ahead of his former team-mate on 167. Up to that moment Ramos had scored important goals, become the most red-carded player in la Liga and Champions League history but also bagged more goals than his compatriot and one of the best midfielders of all time, Andreas Iniesta. Such is the nature of his polarizing reputation.
Still, Ramos has achieved almost everything any footballer would dream of accomplishing. The Real Madrid captain has won back-to-back European Championships with Spain in 2008 and 2012, as well as the World Cup in 2010, beating the Netherlands.
Ramos’ winning mentality can never be questioned. His arrival in Madrid in the summer of 2005 coincided with a barren spell for the Los Blancos. He would wait until 2011 to reach the Champions League quarters. However, his first honour came as his team won La Liga in 2006/2007 season. It was followed by another title the next season.
Ramos then tasted his first international success, playing in La Roja’s back four as they won Euro 2008. Despite all these, the young defender was only getting started and although his club would experience a trophy drought thanks to Pep Guardiola’s all-conquering Barcelona side, he would become the bedrock of the club’s success the following few seasons.
He played a crucial role as Madrid won four Champions League trophies in five seasons, a feat that will be hard to eclipse. In 2014, they lifted their first UCL title since 2002 and many more followed in the next four years. Together with Cristiano Ronaldo he became a crucial figure as they won three titles in a row in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
In 2018, he became the first man to captain a side to three straight European titles in the Champions League era as Real Madrid defeated Liverpool.
Since the turn of the decade, the defender has won two La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, four World Club Cups, the Copa del Rey twice, the Euros and the World Cup.
Inheriting the club and international armbands from the legendary Iker Casillas seemed like a task too big for Ramos. However, as captain of Real Madrid and Spain, he has shown that he was tailor made for the role as a captain. From playing through a broken nose against Bayern Munich to fearlessly defending his teammates during on-pitch brawls, nobody doubted his ability as a captain and a leader.
As captain he has led Real Madrid to two more Champions League titles and helped them to reclaim the league title. He is yet to win anything with Spain as captain but Euro 2020 is around the corner.
Ramos is also the joint-10th highest goalscorer in his country's history, tied with Michel on 21, just two behind Los Blancos legend Alfredo Di Stefano. He has also managed an impressive tally of 85 goals in 615 games for Los Blancos, a huge return for a defender.
After surpassing the 100-goal mark already, Ramos will go down as one of the best goalscoring defenders of all time. Most of his goals come when the Los Blancos need it most. He is a goalscorer for the big occasions.
Master of the dark arts
Despite his glittering trophy-laden career, Ramos has always been one of football’s apex predators. For many fans, pundits and players, he is a master of the dark arts. The 2018 final between Real Madrid and Liverpool was a perfect example of what Ramos is willing to do for his team to win. The debate still lingers amongst football fans whenever the centre back is involved in any altercation.
Many have brought up Ramos' disciplinary record as a reason to believe it was an intentional assault on Liverpool's best player, Mohamed Salah. The challenge saw the Egyptian play a handful of minutes in the first half, something that helped Madrid win the Champions League title.
This is just an example of many instances where Ramos has used unorthodox ways to help his win by all means necessary. Even as he became Spain’s most capped player, Ramos will go down as one of football greatest defender.