RAMOS BIDS FOR OLYMPIC MEDAL TO COMPLETE TROPHY HAUL
▶ Veteran defender is targeting a place in Spain’s Tokyo team, which has not gone down well with some
For anyone who cannot get enough of Sergio Ramos, captain of Real Madrid, new record holder for Spain caps, and subject of an extended documentary series – The Heart of Sergio
Ramos – currently showing on a global subscription channel, good news for the year ahead.
He intends 2020 to be a glorious, uninterrupted year of maximum exposure. There might be a fifth Liga title – Madrid go to Mallorca this weekend sitting at the top of La Liga – and he means to add Champions League No 5 to his collection.
Come June, a third European Championship, this one as captain of Spain. And, from left-field, a fresh target.
Last week, while collecting his record 168th international cap – and, this being Ramos, his 24th booking for his country – he announced he has ambitions to go to the Olympic Games in Japan. Spain have already qualified, via the Uefa Under 21 championships.
The rules of Olympic men’s football allow only three players over 23 years old in a squad, and Ramos sees the senior role as perfectly tailored for him.
He also likes the idea of a unique set of medals: He has won everything available in his club football career, and a World Cup and two Euros.
Add a Games triumph, and he would be the first footballer with both an Olympic gold and a World Cup since 1938.
Ramos will turn 34 in March, and as he begins to glimpse the day when his all-action centre-half game might no longer be sustainable at the most glamorous of clubs, or in the 21st century’s most successful national team, every medal is to be cherished.
“What player would say no to the Olympics?” Ramos asked, having himself put the question of his starring in Tokyo strategically into the public domain. As it happens, there are several parties who might resist.
Spain have traditionally reserved the Olympics, as far as possible, for the players who got them there, in this case the under-21s who won the last European Championships.
Some of those, like Dani Ceballos, of Arsenal, Fabian Ruiz, of Napoli, and Pablo Fornals, of West Ham, would only be eligible for Tokyo as over 23. If Ramos elbows his way in, somebody will feel disgruntled.
His club, Real Madrid, are sceptical. The summer’s European Championships, for which Spain qualified on Tuesday, will end on July 12; the football at the Games begins 11 days later.
If Spain go all the way, the final takes place six days before the 2020-21 La Liga season.
That’s a worn-out captain, with no club pre-season, who would be rolling back into town, prestigious gold medal or not. The club are not obliged to give their blessing for an Olympic call-up.
But, as almost every elite striker knows, Ramos has sharp elbows and a rare determination, and he has power and influence at the Spanish Federation and at Madrid. Anybody erecting obstacles to the idea of Sergio’s five-ringed summer circus had better be bold.
In sections of the Spanish media, there is already a bandwagon, a lobby for him to carry the Spanish flag at the Olympic opening ceremony, and a wistful vision of Ramos and the tennis great Rafa Nadal centre stage in Tokyo, two enduring representatives of what came to be known as the ‘Golden Age of Spanish Sport’. The period when Nadal was commanding grand slams, and La Roja were winning every major title between 2008 and 2012.
Nobody, though, would name Ramos as the most loved figure from those all-conquering Spain teams, who were captained by the respected Iker Casillas and had the admired Andres Iniesta at the heart of their stylish pass-and-move.
Ramos, a long-haired fullback in his younger years, a pugnacious, goalscoring centre-half in his maturity, has always divided opinion.
Ask Liverpool, whose Mohamed Salah was deprived of most of a Champions League final against Real Madrid after Ramos, with a firm, sly tug at him, injured the Egyptian’s shoulder and, in that moment, helped Madrid to a third successive European Cup triumph. Or ask Barcelona, against whom Ramos has collected no fewer than five of his 18 red cards in senior club football.
As one columnist from Catalonia put it: “So, the captain of the national team wants to go to the Olympics to try to add to his 24 titles – and to his record as the player who has been sent off most, has a record number of yellow cards and is the player whose dirtiness has been forgiven by referees more than any other. Few footballers are further from the ‘Olympic Spirit’ than this one.”
Add a Games triumph, and Ramos would be the first footballer with both an Olympic gold and a World Cup since 1938
Sergio Ramos, who will turn 34 in March, wants to be one of the three over23 players in Spain’s Olympic squad