“It was my 100th game in the Champions League and I wanted to help with goals at a tricky time.”
Sergio Ramos specifically asks that he is not showered with praise, going on to say that he is “not a hero” despite – at this point at least – believing that he had once again come up with two vital goals in a Champions League clash that was swinging in the direction of the opposition. He simply wanted to help.
Presumably he also just ‘wanted to help’ when he scored two goals in four minutes to kill off Bayern Munich in the semi-finals three years ago, when he scored the 93rd-minute equaliser in the final that year to break Atletico Madrid hearts or when he scored the opener against the same opposition last May, before lending another helping hand in the penalty shoot-out. Sergio Ramos really is a very useful engine.
The praise from his teammates on Tuesday night after his goal (the second was eventually attributed to Dries Mertens after his attempts to divert Ramos’ header merely made it more difficult for his goalkeeper) was unequivocal. Keylor Navas spoke of his “striker’s instinct”, Marcelo called him a “warrior” and claimed he was “making history, while Dani Carvajal said he was “extremely important” to Real Madrid, but there were two rather less eye-catching quotes that resonate with Ramos’ own reaction on a night that once again cast him as the reluctant hero.
“He’s always there to help us out,” said goalkeeper Navas, perhaps unintentionally echoing the words of his skipper, while Marcelo added: “I’m sure he’s happy about having scored, but even more so about us progressing to the quarter-finals.”
Now there’s a captain. When Jamie Redknapp talks about a team’s ‘best player’ being captain, point him in the direction of Ramos. His name does not appear in a catchy acronym but when the BBC are not broadcasting, it is R who steps in front of the camera. There’s something of the ‘well, if you want something doing properly…’ about Ramos, who eschewed praise on Tuesday night for his goalscoring exploits largely because he had been destroyed in the media for his actual defending the previous week.
Ramos can be a horrible, sneaky bastard, but who wouldn’t want him to be their horrible, sneaky bastard? When people play the ‘if money were no object’ transfer game, the various components of the MSN or BBC will likely be name-checked, but if you were playing that same game before a massive Champions League clash, then the man you might want in your corner is Sergio Ramos. The best player in the world? Of course not. The best big-game player in the world? Quite possibly.
Would a team containing Sergio Ramos ever lose a two-legged game 10-2? Would a referee ever need a second opinion to send him off? There’s nothing about him that says ‘half-measures’, and pity the poor soul who tries to question his ‘mental strength’.
Ramos could become the first man to captain consecutive Champions League-winning teams and there really would be no more fitting honour. He is not just a leader of men but a warrior. And he’s really just trying to help.