Opinion

Forget the Galacticos, Ramos is one of Real Madrid's best buys in decades

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Love him or hate him, captain Sergio Ramos will go down as one of Real Madrid's best ever acquisitions after establishing himself as the heart and soul of the Spanish giants.

Not exactly a steal at an equivalent of $45 million, but Ramos was a huge bargain.

The world game's most successful and glamorous club have spent billions over the years in a brazen bid to dominate the domestic and European fronts.

Real Madrid's drive to stay at the top of the football tree reached its zenith soon after the turn of the century when president Florentino Perez assembled a star-studded team that included France's Zinedine Zidane, Portugal's Luis Figo, Brazil's Ronaldo and England's David Beckham.

The Galacticos, they were called, and they cost the club a total of $360 million.

The club, however, would get no better return for their investment than when they obtained the signature of Ramos from Sevilla for a 'paltry' $45 million in 2005.

Ramos would go on to play 656 matches for the club, winning five La Liga championships and four UEFA Champions League titles.

His stature as a top defender was guaranteed when he played a key role in Spain's golden era that netted the 'Red Furies' the 2008 and 2012 European Championships on either side of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

Ramos, who is now 34, is a defender of undoubted pedigree that comprises a capacity to influence the outcome of any match he plays in.

At the weekend, he returned to the Madrid side after injury kept him out of the Champions League shambles against Shakhtar Donetsk, and led them to an impressive 3-1 win at Barcelona, even scoring from the penalty spot.

His strike at the Camp Nou was his 99th goal for the club, which is an extraordinary tally for a defender.

He also has 39 assists to his credit, if you wouldn't mind.

Apart from being an accomplished penalty taker, Ramos is a recognised danger man at set-pieces with his canny ability to make late runs to meet the ball, usually with his head.

And never was his nose for goal more crucial than in the 2014 Champions League final against Atletico Madrid, when his magnificent header with only seconds to go broke Atleti's hearts and took the game into extra-time before Madrid won 4-1.

He also scored Real's goal in the 2016 final against Atletico before his team won on penalties.

Ramos's status as a top-notch defender and an inspirational leader in the mould of such stalwarts as Franco Baresi and Carles Puyol was assured.

Yet his reputation is sullied by a belligerent approach to football that has got him sent off no fewer than 26 times for the 'Merengues'.

Ramos is as uncompromising as can be and actually can be quite nasty in his tackling, which might explain why he is not as universally respected as much as his class deserves.

His image as a merchant of the dark arts was enhanced in the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool.

Mohamed Salah was cynically wrestled to the ground by the Spaniard and the Egyptian striker hurt his shoulder and was forced out of the game, raising the ire of the Reds fans.

Ramos gives the impression he would do whatever it takes to stop an opponent but he would not willingly hurt any one.

His reputation as a hatchet man often precedes him and it is an aspect of his game that he will have to live with.

Yet this should not mar his richly decorated career.