• Defender convinced Real are ready to go again and that Bale can shine.
• The defender insists he is the same person whether or not he is on the pitch.
If you want any indication of the sort of person Sergio Ramos is, then the story of how he met his wife should give you a hint.
Pilar Rubio, his spouse of nine years, is an exceptionally famous TV personality in Spain. Ramos, clearly a fan even before he met her, dreamt about her for three nights in a row and after consulting the women in his family, decided to message her.
It worked. Most of what Ramos does seems to. He is in central London to promote his new documentary series on Amazon Prime, El Corazon de Sergio Ramos (The heart of Sergio Ramos). Ramos is a man who wears his heart on his sleeve, or in this case, etched on the chest of the £640 (Sh82,000) Prada shirt he’s wearing.
There are two ways to judge the player. This is the man who holds the record for the most cards in the Champions League and La Liga. Ramos is also the first captain to lift the Champions League three times in a row and has won every trophy of note he has competed for.
It’s hard to square the calm man in this room at the Soho Hotel with the player who sometimes seems to need his own personal referee, but whether he’s sliding into a tackle or his future wife’s DMs, he insists he’s the same person: “I like to compete in anything I do in my life, from when I wake up until I go to bed. Any given game, even with my kids. I like to win, that’s how I am.”
But Ramos is here at a low point in his recent club career. He has not been winning. Real had a chaotic season last time out. They went through three managers, finished third in La Liga and were knocked out of the Champions League by Ajax. He is convinced that will not continue this campaign: “Of course after a winning streak for a long time, there’s a turning point. Yes, we stopped winning. But there isn’t a component of the team that is tired of winning. It is just something that happened and we have to reset and restart. We have new people in our team.”
“We will always be a contender to winning. You are forced to win every year. We have to get rid of a bad season and we have more hunger to win and more hunger for competition. I think this will be a good year and we have to do things right from the beginning.”
A player who could be key to a turnaround is Gareth Bale. Bale spent most of his summer with a foot out of the door and is supposedly disconnected from the rest of his team, called ‘The Golfer’ and still unable to speak Spanish.
Bale has started the season in excellent form, scoring twice in Real’s last game. And Ramos has his own views on his team-mate: “I think Bale’s a great player and he’s been really important for the club in the years he’s been with us. You find many things in the press. Some are true, some are not. We live in this world and we have to try to be above all that.”
“Regarding what has been said about Gareth, I think time puts everything in place. Regardless of what each player does in his personal life, I think it should be respected and not even talked about. We’re free to do what we want with our free time.”
“Of course, professionally, you owe yourself to a team, to a club, and you try to be as honest as possible. Afterwards, it’s up to each person to go home with a clear conscience or not.”
Part of the plan to lift Real back up the league is the return of Zinedine Zidane, the manager who led them to those three Champions League wins. Ramos has seen enough to think he still has the magic touch: “He remains the same person. He keeps his essence as a manager. He has more experience. I would sum up in essence he is the same person, but better because he has more experience.”
Amazon’s documentary on Ramos begins with bruising defeats and there’s a sense of irony about the cameras missing out on the trophy-laden three years that came before.
Ramos has no qualms though and is keen to show the hard part of being a footballer: “You never know when the best time is to film a documentary. Yes, if I had known I maybe would have started filming it three years ago. I think it is good to see the suffering and the pain behind being a football player and also the effort and sacrifice that entails having this kind of career.”
“I think they will see a side of me that can be more moving, they can feel more pureness and it can be more entertaining than if it was just a successful part.”
While Ramos is keen for a new side of him to come across in the documentary, he is not trying to convince those who do not like him as a player that they are wrong. Asked about changing their minds, he replied: “No way. One of the reasons why I agreed on making this is to leave some kind of legacy, maybe for a kid who has a dream in life — not necessarily being a football player — and also for the people who love me, for my fans, to give them a different version of myself, so they can see my passion, my family, that side of my life. It’s some kind of way of saying thank you to them.”
“And for the people who are critical of what I do, maybe this will give them more information to have a proper judgement.”
Whatever side of the fence you sit on, it can’t be denied Ramos is all heart. At the very least, a chunk of his shirt is.