Every club would take Sergio Ramos in a heartbeat
Greatness does not always equate with goodness. No one reflects this more than arch villain Sergio Ramos.
The Spaniard was embroiled in three separate incidents as Real Madrid’s regal stroll eventually saw off a spirited Liverpool to claim a third successive Champions League and fourth in five years. Yet it is a mark of Ramos’ influence on the pitch that the majority of the post-match reaction centred on his antics.
First, there was the game-defining moment. As Mo Salah scampered after the ball, Ramos followed suit, linking his arm with the Egyptian’s. Whether or not Ramos intended to injure Salah when refusing to relinquish connection with his opponent is pure conjecture. But Jurgen Klopp was right when he said that it was a “little like wrestling” and a “harsh challenge.”
Mido, the former Tottenham midfielder, was less diplomatic.
He who understands football knows that Sergio Ramos injured Mo Salah intentionally.
Salah, despite returning to the pitch, eventually walked off, night over, head in hands, tears flowing. Perhaps what grated so much was that this was a sight of contrasts, a pure and innocent love for the game etched into Salah’s crumbling face pitted against the perceived cynicism of Ramos’ challenge.
Then, two minutes before Loris Karius literally handed Madrid the lead, Ramos was seen delivering a flailing arm to the Liverpool goalkeeper. To link this impact with Karius’ mistakes would again be conjecture but it demonstrates the Madrid captain’s penchant for nefarious play.
The third, least criminal act was a frankly laughable piece of play-acting, leading renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens to suggest this.
Bring in at least a 15-minute sin-bin and a citing process for this kind of play acting.
Ramos has such a driving desire for victory that he will freely flirt with the edges of the law. That he has picked up more cards, red and yellow, than any other player in Spanish and European competition history suggests his coquettish tease with the rules of the game lacks deftness. But so often, Ramos’ wilful sacrifice to the dark arts ensures his side emerges victorious. Will the serial winner look back on his career and count the cards, the trophies or both?
As he walked past the media zone at Kiev with a smirk and smug nod to the trophy he clutched, the answer was never really in doubt. Which is why, as outrage subsumed social media and the press, it felt artificial. Football has never been a game of shatterproof morals. It never will be. You need the beast as well as the beauty to strike the right balance.
Manchester City waltzed their way to the 2017/18 Premier League title, playing entertaining and mesmerising football. Yet they were also masters as stopping counter-attacks before they even began. Fernandinho scything down onrushing forwards was as much his requirement as was his steady ability to connect defence to attack.
Remember Pep Guardiola's dazzling Barcelona? Sergio Busquets, a linchpin of Barca's midfield, was as adept at play-acting and cynical fouls as Ramos. Peek-a-boo.
The simple truth in the protracted debates surrounding Ramos is that every club would love to have him. It was why Manchester United fought so hard for his signature in 2015, only to learn the player was as Machiavellian off the pitch as on when he used the Red Devils as leverage for a contract renewal at the Bernabeu. Ramos doesn't embody refined footballing ethics; he represents the insatiable appetite for victory.
Perhaps the indignation at Ramos’ behaviour was genuine, but the general loathing of a player who has won everything, World Cup included, is false. This faux-hate is nothing more than envy for a player who would, undoubtedly, improve any defence exponentially.
If Liverpool were offered Ramos tomorrow, they’d take him. He may cross the line with a dastardly glee but he invariably ends up with silverware.