“Being the captain is a great privilege and a responsibility to lead a great group with different cultures.” – Sergio Ramos.
This, from the Real Madrid captain, just about defines and captures his essence.
Inheriting the number four jersey previously worn by Fernando Hierro spelled out the amount of responsibility assigned to Ramos after joining Los Blancos in 2005.
Ramos holds a special spot in Florentino Perez’s heart as he was the only Spaniard player bought in his first stint as Real’s president.
At just 24, Ramos was appointed as one of Real Madrid’s four captains.
Five years later and his moment of reckoning would arrive after the transfer of Casillas to Porto. The transfer meant that Ramos was named as the official club captain – a dream come true for the center back.
Under his leadership, Real Madrid have marched on to win three Champions League trophies and a La Liga trophy.
This season, the chances of Real Madrid doubling their La Liga title count under Ramos look very bright, being a point above rivals Barcelona with a game in hand as the season enters its concluding phase.
Barcelona went into the coronavirus enforced break with a two point lead. However, the tables have turned after the league returned from a three month hiatus.
Ramos has been key to this resurgence by Real Madrid by also contributing upfront in terms of crucial goals.
The captain scored in Real Madrid’s first game after lockdown against Eibar at the Alfredo di Stefano Stadium. It was a memorable goal for him considering he’d got the first ever goal at that stadium in its inaugural match in 2006.
Six days later after this goal, the 34-year-old would score the opener against Real Sociedad after he converted a penalty in the second half. It was the 20th consecutive penalty he’d scored for club and country (including shootouts).
Ramos switched it up in terms of his goal-scoring style as he wrapped up a victory against Mallorca with a beautiful free kick.
As a result of that goal, Ramos became La Liga’s all-time leading scoring defender with 68 goals – surpassing Ronald Koeman.
On a personal level, that meant that Ramos had scored eight La Liga goals, making it his most prolific campaign and his 10th in all competitions – hitting double figures for a third season.
Against Getafe, Ramos made his 646th appearance for Madrid, climbing up to fourth in the club’s all-time appearance list above Santillana.
He went on to cap this amazing feat with the winning goal courtesy a penalty in the 79th minute.
What would be his ninth La Liga goal of the season, equaling Ezequiel Garay’s (2006-07) record of the most goals in a single La Liga season by a defender?
The win over Getafe was Ramos’ 450th in La Liga as a Real Madrid player, becoming just the fifth player to reach that feat.
In their most recent game against against Athletic Club, Ramos once again scored the only goal of the game from the spot, becoming the first center back to score 10 goals in La Liga since Fernando Hierro (1993-94) – the man from who he inherited his jersey number.
Moreover, the goal was Ramos’ 101st career club goal and his 71st in La Liga.
Since the lockdown, Real Madrid have kept five clean sheets out of seven games due to the leadership of Ramos.
Upfront, the captain has scored five out of the seven games since the restart – more than any player.
Ramos’ importance to this title charge cannot be understated as he has contributed defensively and offensively.
Zidane clearly still trusts his captain despite the fact that he turned 34 this year.
Ramos has started 32 of the 34 La Liga games so far and is likely to feature in the remaining four fixtures bar any injury.
The big question remains as to how long Zidane wants to keep his main man around for.
Defenders, they say, get better with age. With Ramos approaching the twilight of his career, will his performances this season trigger a discussion for a multi-year contract extension?
Time and time again, it’s been clear that Real Madrid’s contract extensions have been offered on the basis of meritocracy.
Using Ramos as a case study: After his breakthrough season in 2009-10, he became a constant feature in the Real Madrid team and on 12th July 2011, got an extension until 2017.
After scoring that crucial equalizer for in the 2014-15 Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, he was again rewarded with a new five year contract, tying him to the club until 2020.
With the club on the cusp of their first La Liga title post Ronaldo, it won’t be surprising to see Ramos get a multi-year deal given his immense contribution to the team’s success this season.
It’s more likely than not, actually.