As Sergio Ramos celebrates his 34th birthday, we look at the stats behind a man not only admired in Spain, but the world over.
He's the pantomime villain, the guy we all love to hate, but admit it, you'd love him if he was on your team! Let's look at what makes him so special..
Many fans will remember Ramos for being a right-back, spending much of his Real Madrid and Spain career there before drifting in field. Granted, to get into those teams he was clearly capable enough, but hardly mentioned at the time as one of the best in that position.
A switch into central defence saw him transformed, as a leader and as one of the world's best centre-backs who helped Real Madrid to La Decima (their tenth Champions League title) and four trophies on Europe's biggest stage in total.
Granted, he can still be guilty of lapses, be it sloppy play or poor positioning, but his overall ability at both ends of the field makes him a key asset for club and country. Which leads us onto...
Ramos has contributed the odd goal throughout his career, but the last four years or so have seen his tally increase significantly.
That is, in part, to his ability and responsibilities from the penalty spot - and even free-kicks - but it is still impressive. As a defender, he has 14 goals this season.
As well as leading the way with the most appearances for Spain, he has netted 21 goals for his country and eight have come in the last two years since the 2018 World Cup in Russia. He is now just one short of equalling the record of Daniel Passarella of Argentina as the top scoring defender in international football.
With the intention of playing for another two-and-a-half years for his country, you would expect it to be a case of when Ramos passes that total, rather than if.
Ramos has become synonymous with a yellow card. A yellow card to Ramos is like food and drink to the rest of us. An essential, especially in El Clasico. So much so, there is very little value in backing it as he is usually odds-on to go in the book against Real Madrid's big rivals.
He has received an incredible 233 bookings in senior football and 26 reds - but never has he been sent off for Spain, which comes as a surprise.
Whether it's dissent, time wasting or a rash challenge, Ramos can do it all when it comes to the 'dark arts' as we'll politely call it - although another term is generally used when football fans are asked what they associate Ramos with.
- Appearances: 170
- Goals: 21
- Assists: 7
- Yellow cards: 24
- Red card: 0
- Appearances: 640
- Goals: 91
- Assists: 38
- Yellow cards: 209
- Red Cards: 26
- Appearances: 45
- Goals: 3
- Assists: 0
- Yellow cards: 10
This season (club and country)
- Appearances: 47
- Goals: 14
- Assists: 0
- Yellow cards: 11
- Red cards: 1
- Shots-per-game average: 1.2
- Pass success (%): 91.2
- Aerials won per game: 2.2
- LaLiga x 4
- Copa del Rey: x 2
- Champions League: x 4
- FIFA World Cup: x 1
- European Championship: x 2
In his own words
"I get up every day with the same desire to keep improving which I've had since I was a kid. I'm not looking for recognition. All I want to do every year is do even better, forget what we've won and set new challenges. I'll keep going as long as the body allows it.
"My grandfather and father always told me that even if there's only one second left, there's still hope. You've got to have that attitude, and that's always been the attitude at our club.
"To set an example, you have to perform well, work hard and give your all; show the younger lads so you can ask the same of them. I'm very happy to have the chance to lead this team.
"I'm happy if I'm a role model. I think I've fought and sacrificed a lot, so that when I retire I can do so with my conscience clear, after having won everything there is to win.
"I would like to carry on playing [for Spain] for many more years. I'm going to have to go to Qatar [for the 2022 World Cup] with a grey beard if necessary."
What others say
- "Ramos doesn't surprise me. It's what he has – a big personality ... he's always there, always encouraging players and he never drops his guard. He never gives up." - Zinedine Zidane
- "My relationship with Ramos is very good, as with 99.9 per cent of the players, Sergio is the captain. I only knew him from references and from having played against him. When I met him, I was pleasantly surprised; there is a reason why he holds [Spain's] record for international appearances. I was surprised by his leadership skills and personal qualities." - Luis Enrique
- "There are defenders with extraordinary technical ability, others have unique defensive qualities – like [Fabio] Cannavaro, brilliant at marking. Others, like [Franco] Baresi, can command a back line while others influence with strong personalities. But factoring everything together to evaluate a defender then Sergio Ramos is the most complete. He's got a bit of everything: technical ability, strength, personality and leadership." - Carlo Ancelotti
- "He defends well, can play, and manages all facets of the game. He's a very complete footballer." - Thiago Silva, Paris Saint-Germain
- "Sergio Ramos is the toughest opponent I've come up against. He is very strong, has a lot of experience, and is a very competitive player." - Luis Suarez, Barcelona
What does the future hold?
Had the Euros gone ahead this summer, Ramos would likely have been the only remaining member of the Euro 2008-winning squad still in the Spain squad. Going on his comments, with Qatar 2022 also in his sights, he is clearly not planning on slowing down any time soon.
His leadership skills have come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years, so his experience will be vital to Luis Enrique's new-look squad, but whether he stays at Real Madrid remains to be seen.
His current contract at the Bernabeu expires in the summer of 2021, when he will be 35. He is reportedly keen to extend his stay with the Spanish giants, with AS claiming he is holding out on a deal until 2023, but the coronavirus pandemic and disruption to football has put those thoughts on hold.
Ramos once admitted his desire to retire at Los Blancos, insisted he would 'even play for free', but his outspoken nature has previously seen him clash with the Madrid hierarchy.
What about a return to boyhood club Sevilla before he calls it a day? Unlikely, with the relationship between Ramos and the club's fans also becoming pretty strained over the years.
He came close to a switch to the Chinese Super League in 2019, reportedly asking Real Madrid to release him from his contract, and if Madrid do not extend his current deal then a move into semi-retirement could be an option.
We have seen Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Villa do the same in recent years and if he does not fancy a move east, the MLS could be a viable option with David Beckham's Inter Miami looking for a big-name signing.
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