When Sergio Ramos was 14 he suffered a career-threatening injury. He was forbidden from riding a bike at Sevilla but did it anyway. The young Ramos of course crashed and sustained a nasty knee injury that took him over a year to overcome and nearly cost him his career at such a vital stage of development.
“He would be in tears from the pain” his mother Paqui said as he did recovery exercises from a shattered growth plate.
“That’s when we noticed how committed and determined he was” his father Jose Maria recounted. “The pain and suffering only made me try harder”, Ramos said looking back at his teenage self. It was the moment his steel will was formed. Sergio Ramos has no problem in proving people wrong, starting with himself.
To Paris, with love
In his recent reality melting docuseries, The Legend of Sergio Ramos, he laid out his ambitions to win the Champions League and World Cup again. With his place in the Spain squad in doubt under Luis Enrique’s tenure, it seems like the move to Paris may be the final chapter in what has been an iconic career. He joins what is now looking like the millennial Galacticos or l’équipe d’étoiles in this season’s rendition of PSG. Their new kit is even a Michael Jordan Bulls-inspired number and Ramos has plenty of grievances that he has taken personally to add to the vibe.
PSG is a team full of big stars and even bigger egos as Ramos enters the scene. Maybe some Andalusian discipline is exactly what Kylian Mbappe and Neymar Jr. need in order to fully optimise their performances in big games. You feel Ramos is not the kind of man who will take too kindly to Neymar going off for a week in midseason to his annual fiesta for his sister’s birthday. Mbappe, for all his mercurial brilliance, also seems to need the guidance of a seasoned winner to help him maintain his standards and push him on. But at least himself and Mauricio Pochettino will get on as two kindred spirits of incarnate footballing madness.
Once described by Eamon Dunphy as “a headbanger” the Spaniard has always played on the edge. His risk-taking is now epitomised by his numerous Panenka-style penalties. The question remains though, will Ramos be the lion that tames the rest of the meandering team or will he tear up the tent and eat the circus, who knows in the crazy world of Paris Saint-Germain football club.
We don’t need to talk.
– Zinedine Zidane on Sergio Ramos
For all the gusto and pomp, Ramos needs to be appreciated, he is an absolute winner of the first-class degree. And the recent omission from the Spanish squad will deeply hurt him. He defines himself by his representation of the national team, it is totally wrapped into his identity and self-worth as a committed Spaniard. Just watch his emotional interview after Spain’s exit from the 2018 World Cup. He is a man who plays with emotion. The header against Atletico Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final in the dying moments is an encapsulation of his spirit. The sheer belief, belligerence, and outstanding courage to make that header are what sets him apart from all others.
When Zidane said they don’t need to talk he referred to the experience Ramos has in running the dressing room. Even at the height of Cristiano Ronaldo’s golden years, Ramos was still the driving force and alpha leader to his teammates. The captain always knew what to do, and Zidane knew there was no point getting in his way.
He is older than Wayne Rooney, and instead of eating comedy oversized lollipops in Mallorca and drinking himself to infinity every summer, Ramos dedicated himself to testing the latest nutrition and performance-enhancing trends. While his Amazon show, The Legend of Sergio Ramos, is a propaganda piece, it does show us the lengths the Spaniard goes through while off the pitch. He is constantly conditioning or discussing training methods with his personal coach and that work shows as he is still competing at the highest level at 35. He even uses a Hyperbaric Chamber in his personal time to stop the aging process. He boasts how it is the same one used by NASA for training astronauts.
Varane and Ramos
While he was known for his partnership with the madcap Pepe, it will be with Raphael Varane that he will go down in the pantheon of legendary centre-back pairings. The pair won four Champions League titles together and usually went underappreciated when Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, and Ronaldo took the spotlight.
As Varane departs for Manchester and Ramos for Paris, it ends the most profligate pairing the European game has ever seen. Together they conquered Europe at an almost Napoleonic pace. While a rebuild at Madrid has been on the cards it seems strange that they would release players of such importance in one summer, but such is the way with Florentino Perez.
At PSG he will have to quickly establish a relationship with Presnel Kimpembe. The Frenchman does have pace and they have the potential to work well together in a high Pochettino line and Ramos brings that experience to temper and balance out with the highly athletic Kimpembe. With either Gianluigi Donnuruma or Keyor Navas in goal, he will bring organisational stability and mental acuity to the Parisienne defense.
Moving his young family to Paris at such a crucial stage in their development was probably not something Ramos had in mind. His wife Pilar Rubio is just as determined as he is and will also have to adjust and transition her work in television for the move to Paris. The transfer will have been sanctioned by her more than any other, and she will push him to achieve his goals. It was not in the script, however, and it is not something either of them had in mind. These things will burn away at Ramos, and he will turn every negative into a motivating factor.
When the contract ran out it was assumed he would sign back for Madrid. But it’s clear if Florentino Perez wanted Ramos at Real Madrid he would still be there. Even the voracious El Chiringuito contributor Tomas Roncero turned against him claiming Ramos “lied to his face” about having signed a new contract with Madrid. He went on to the infamous show and berated Ramos for over four minutes and sarcastically told him to “take the money” in his new transfer. Proving Perez and the doubters wrong after such a betrayal is all the motivation Ramos needs.
The last chance
The Parisiens have such obvious mental deficiencies when it comes to closing out key games. Who better than Ramos to plug that gap. The man who has made a career by peaking for the knockout stages of the Champions League. Because that is the sole reason to go to Paris, to win the ever-elusive Champions League trophy. PSG have all the minerals needed to concoct an alloy of victory. But in Sergio Ramos, they have found the ultimate leader, and this wounded animal is out for blood, pity the opponent or teammate who gets in his way.
Be it Perez, Luis Enrique, or even the extended El Chiringuito panel, there are plenty of forces to rebel against. His own father Jose Maria put it best though when he told us “He has a personality that came from within, no one told him what to do or how to do it. He made his own way. His challenge was with himself”. While he can draw on the past grievances and betrayal, ultimately the fire comes from within Ramos himself. It is what has driven him to this point. He is the most decorated centre-back in the history of the game, two European Championships, four Champions League titles and a World Cup cannot be argued against. Sergio Ramos has nothing left to prove to football, only to himself.