The Whites’ captain joined the club in 2005 for a fee of €27m.
Time was running out. Real Madrid’s 12-year-long wait for La Decima looked set to extend. Cross-town rivals Atletico Madrid were holding on dearly to a 1-0 lead and had successfully managed to keep their opponents at bay. Until the ultimate big-game performer Sergio Ramos took the mantle upon himself to be the savior on the day.
In the final moments of added time, Real were awarded a corner, giving them an opportunity to flood the opposition box with bodies in search of the elusive equalizer. Luka Modric hastily made way to the corner flag and swung the ball into the box swarmed with a crowd of red and white shirts. Among these desperately competing men, Sergio Ramos leaped high above the others and in mid-air maneuvered his body position to slot the ball into the net past the outstretching glove of Thibaut Courtois to reignite the hopes of millions.
After being in touching distance of European glory, the Los Rojiblancos had the door slammed in their faces by their neighbours and were visibly distraught by the late denial. They never recovered as they shipped three goals in extra-time with Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Cristiano Ronaldo completing the remarkable turnaround. However, when the situation looked bleak, it was Ramos, who pulled his team out of the trenches and set them on their way to realizing their dream.
This memorable and specific run of play provides a telling microcosm of what Ramos brings to the table. His natural authority, unstoppable drive, and stirring will power are all intangibles that make him one of the best clutch players of all time. No matter how big the occasion, how daunting the task, the Madrid faithful and more importantly his teammates, have come to believe that Ramos will rise to the occasion and conjure something special.
The Spaniard possesses an unshakeable belief in his abilities and emanates an aura that fills others around him with the same confidence and arrogance to perform fearlessly. One apt example of his enviable conviction can be found in the semi-final against Portugal in the Euro 2012. A couple of months prior to that game, Sergio Ramos had missed a decisive penalty in the semi-final against Bayern Munich that had resulted in the ouster of his team from the UEFA Champions League.
As one might come to expect, the Spaniard received plenty of flak for his miss with a lot of anger being directed by fans towards him. Now, such an experience might leave a lasting impact on some players but Ramos is not your average run-of-the-mill individual. Instead, during the penalty shoot-out against Portugal, Ramos stepped forward and savagely deceived the keeper by performing a paneka.
The two-time European and World Cup Winner is further renowned for his charismatic leadership skills. His front-foot approach rubs off on his fellow teammates and pushes them to emulate their leader in taking initiatives and establishing dominance. He is not one to shy away from confrontation and has developed a notorious reputation over the years.
The four-time LaLiga winner wears his heart on his sleeve and might at times be over-zealous in his actions on the pitch, which is reflected in the staggering number of red cards he has received throughout his career. Nonetheless, in hindsight, they pale by comparison to the influence he exerts on the game and on his team via his domineering methods.
His aggressive nature and ironclad mentality understandably tend to garner a lot of attention, with his actual footballing traits sometimes overlooked in comparison. Nevertheless, there is a reason he has been a mainstay in the heart of the defence for both club and country for over a decade and it is certainly not due to his sporadic shenanigans.
Like most modern-day defenders, the Spaniard is a reliable customer in possession and excels at initiating attacks from the back, which is reflected in an impressive pass completion rate of 91. 8%. He also enhances the attacks by accurately switching play out wide and completed 123 switches this term. The defensive lynchpin is also adept at carrying the ball into midfield and his successful dribble rate of 91.7% is testament to that particular skill.
Under Zinedine Zidane’s tutelage, the side has maintained a mean rearguard and boasts the best defensive record in the league, having conceded a mere 21 goals in 34 matches this campaign. The central defender has been key to their excellent defensive performances. Furthermore, the 13-time European Champions are in cruise control in the title-race as they hold a four-point lead at the top of the table with four games remaining.
Not only has the skipper contributed defensively but he has also been a decisive figure at the other end of the field with 12 goals under his belt this year, becoming only the second player in the team to score 10 or more league goals in the 2019-20 season.
When plying your trade at such a gargantuan institution, just having the necessary talent isn’t quite enough. One also needs to consistently perform at a high level under crushing pressure whilst also being mentally tough to deal with the occasional setbacks and it’s accompanying scrutiny. Ramos has repeatedly provided proof of his ability to step up on the biggest stages. He relishes the pressure, thrives under it, and makes it his personal mission to drag his team over the line.
Even if one takes away his crucial goalscoring contributions or his defensive prowess, it is still extremely difficult to find such a well-rounded player who can provide value with his sheer presence on the pitch and the dressing room. At 34, he is reaching the twilight years of his career, and hence finding a replacement for one of the greatest defenders of this generation could likely prove to be a herculean task for the Real Madrid management.