Straight-talking, confident and oozing loads of talent, Sergio Ramos has been a mainstay in the Real Madrid defence since joining the club in 2007...
Ever since the day he made Spanish national debut at the age of 18, Sergio Ramos has been destined for greatness.
The Sevilla youth product was quickly snapped up by Real Madrid for a cool €27 million, a record for a Spanish teenager. He was awarded the legendary Fernando Hierro's No. 4 shirt, and there was no looking back from then on.
Nine years down the road, it's safe to say that Ramos has repaid that figure many times over. The classy defender can play on the right or in the middle, an ever-present in the Real Madrid backline and the first name on many a Spanish national teamsheet. He's only 27, but he already has more than a century of caps for the World and European Champions to go with more than 200 appearances and numerous titles for Real.
The hunger to win and that rebellious streak of his can sometimes lead to trouble though, as he equalled Hierro's club record number of red cards in 2010, despite having played 264 fewer games!
In other words, Sergio Ramos is a champion. He knows how to win, both as an individual and as part of a team.
Here he tells us all about the real Sergio Ramos, life growing up in Andalusia and the characteristics that make him the footballer he is.
Sergio, this Nike Tiempo Campaign is all about confident football leaders who have a rebellious streak. That defines you perfectly right?
Well, perhaps I'm not the best person to define myself, but it's true that they are certain values with which I can relate to. Maybe they now want to slightly change the image of this boot, which has always been associated with the defensive type of player. In that sense, there is more than one of us who likes to join in attacks; we like to break the mould that the boot had and, of course, it's always wonderful to have such a comfortable tool to work with.
You’re from Andalusia, a region known for bullfighting and you are thought of as having the bravery of a bullfighter. Is that fair?
Well, perhaps in the past it's a profession that I would have considered, but football makes me even happier than bullfighting. However, in a certain way I feel a bond with that world because my family and my town have always been great bullfighting fans. It's something you're born with and, in that respect, I think that when you're out on the pitch you obviously forget about everything and I do feel I have some "matador" qualities.
Talking of bravery, let’s go back to 2012 and the penalty shoot-out at the European Championships. Were you adamant that you’d take one despite the miss against Bayern Munich?
Yes. I think that when certain moments arrive, there are players who fortunately have that complete confidence in themselves, who are in a rich vein of form and want to face up to such responsibility. And, in that sense, throughout my footballing career I believe that I've always been able to take in the situation and assume that responsibility. On some occasions with more luck than others, but yes, I took the decision to ask the gaffer to take it and I would do it again a thousand times over.
What made you decide to take the penalty that way, in the style of Panenka?
Believe it or not it was something that was completely premeditated and well planned from the day that I unfortunately missed the penalty against Munich. That penalty was for my family. You always remember the pain and the negativity that come after a miss like that and the Portugal one was more in honour of my mother and my sister, who are the two that always suffer most. And I believe they deserved an eternal moment to cherish from my career, and I think that was one.
Who knew you were going to take it like that?
Jesus Navas, who is practically always with me in the room; and Raúl Albiol, who I had told. Just when penalties were about to start, I told Raul about the chip. I think they were the only two to know as well as my dad and my brother, who know me well. I had already told them on the day of the Bayern game that the next game in which I had to take a penalty, I was going to take one like that.
And your manager?
I'm not sure if the gaffer will remember it, but it's true that we practiced penalties carefully and I said it to Vicente just before the Portugal game and I said to him: “Gaffer, if I take a penalty shall I chip it?” He laughed and said that when the moment arrived I'd bottle it.
How much pressure did you feel taking it?
Practically none because I had already experienced missing a penalty and the repercussions that it can have in football, especially if you're called Sergio Ramos, but by scoring there was a feeling of great satisfaction and one of making the people close to me happy, those that are there during the bad times. Everyone jumps on board during the good times.
You scored against Rui Patricio that day. Do you study your opponents, in this case goalkeepers?
You know, as time goes by, whenever you play against one goalkeeper or another you gradually get to know them, how they are going to react, if they're going to wait for you, if he dives early and I more or less knew that Rui Patricio likes to choose a side slightly before you take the spot-kick, meaning that whatever he had done, I was still going to chip it. Maybe in the Confederations Cup when I took one against Buffon, I knew that such a veteran goalkeeper like him with so much experience was going to wait for me, so I had to change and wait until his last movement before deciding where to put it. That said, I do like to study the opponents I'm going to face.
Do you agree that the bravest people are rewarded?
That's what they say. I've never had a problem in that sense. I believe that you learn the most during the bad times and that mistakes make you stronger.
You're still young, but you've been playing for Spain and Real Madrid for many years. Do you see yourself, as the future captain of Spain?
I believe that everybody is their own person, and in that sense I think that leaders are born. Experience gives you those qualities, as do games and your team-mates. That's why it's not for me to say. I think that it should be the opinion of your team-mates or the people that really know you, but in that sense I do consider myself a footballer who has learnt a lot over time. I'm fortunate enough to have played many years at the top level, both for my club and for Spain, which is something that I'm enormously proud of. Hopefully, in the future my name will last long in the history of the beautiful game.
You've also got a touch of rebelliousness about you. A rebel with a desire to do well?
I've always been clear about what I want to do, what I want, what I like and what I don't like and it's obvious that you're not going to get on with everybody, but those who know me know what I'm like. They know that I always speak my mind and, whether you like it or not, I'll tell you what I think.
The Real Madrid players had their problems with the Barcelona players back in 2011 but thanks largely to you; they were resolved prior to the 2012 Euros. Are you aware of your leadership qualities within the squad?
All of us did our bit to resolve that. People said I had a problem with Gerard Pique but I never did. I don't think I ever will because today I think, having spent more time with him, he's a great lad with a good heart. As a group we are all the same, we fight for the same cause and it would have been an error to ruin the atmosphere of such a great and promising national team. The results and the successes highlight that. The two clubs had played a lot of games that year in La Liga, Copa Del Rey and the Champions League and of course we all had our own interests. It's true that there was a bit of tension, a bit excessive at times, but at the end of the day we found a solution, which was important and we moved on.
How do you think your team-mates see you, both those from Real Madrid and from the national team, or even your opponents in La Liga?
An honourable, hard-working guy who fights for what he wants and defends what he believes is his. Those who know me can add the rest. But above all I consider myself to be a good person, which in my eyes is what is above all else.
How do you think Spanish fans and those from abroad see you?
I feel loved wherever I go to and it's something that I'll be eternally grateful for. That affection from the fans, from people, whether they're from your club or not is wonderful. They value you as a professional in the world that you work in. Luckily in my case, football is known on a global scale, and I sense that affection outside of Spain, when I'm playing abroad or on holiday. For all the years that I've played for Madrid, I still get up with the same desire I had on the first day, when I joined the team at 19 years old. I think that is what makes you different from the rest: being optimistic and not being satisfied with what you have achieved in the past, demonstrating why in this world you cannot live in the past.
And are you a role model to children?
That would make me very happy. From an early age I've had role models like Puyol, Fernando Hierro, Maldini. They are players who have always marked an era. In my case, Javi Navarro, Pablo Alfaro, “Tiburón” (Shark) Prieto, who were from my part of the world. I believe that I've fought and sacrificed myself greatly, so that when I retire I can do so with my conscience clear, after having won everything there is to win in this sport. In this regard, children can always count on me for the things I can help them with.
What about the real Sergio Ramos. Who is that?
A family man, a romantic perhaps. It's true, people don't know the real Sergio Ramos. I consider myself to be the most romantic of my brothers. We've always found it difficult to express it to the outside world, and the family; I think they know it, but above all I think it's the most important thing, along with happiness, which has to come above all else.
Is it true that you played against your brother when you were kids and made him bleed?
The truth of that story is that I was fifteen and my brother would have been 23. He played for a team from the Seville district and we played a friendly match. I was in the junior ranks of Seville F.C. and he was a forward. There was a game at their home ground; everyone from the town was there and they always used to get stuck into us. He was the centre-forward and I was the centre-back. He wanted some typical banter and I said to him, “Careful, today is serious and we're playing a match.” He was looking to have a laugh but I wasn't interested in getting involved. And yes, it is true that the goalkeeper took a goal-kick and I went up for the ball with my elbows out and accidently caught him on the lip. The ref didn't blow for a foul even though I made him bleed a little. Ten minutes later the coach saw that I was getting the better of him and took him off. "Aren't you embarrassed that your 15 year-old brother is beating you to everything?"