TOMMY MARTIN: The spoiled children of Europe, Real Madrid’s glory hunters show Sterling how it’s done

It was a shameless act. Premeditated. Despicable, disgusting, dastardly. Did he mean it? Of course he did.

I mean, holding a selfie stick during the Champions League trophy presentation, really?

You have to hand to it Sergio Ramos — when it comes to being an arsehole, he abides by the rule of go hard or go home.

Dead right too. There’s no point doing things by halves. His performance on Saturday — a grappling, elbowing, diving masterclass — was something to behold. And as captain of Real Madrid, he is highly conscious of the need to lead by example.

When sports psychology gurus talk about teams having a winning culture, they mention the All Blacks sweeping up the dressing room floor or Kilkenny hurlers going to war in training matches.

What about Real Madrid? You don’t have to be an objectionable prat to work there, but it helps. While Ramos was waving a selfie stick, Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale were using the moments after Champions League glory to whine about contractual matters.

Bale wants to feel more important at Real, we later heard, while Ronaldo held out a finger for every Champions League title he’d won, even if one of them was with another club. “I’m delighted Cristiano has five European Cups — like me,” said club president Florentino Perez.

These spoiled children rule Europe — they truly are an example to us all.

Raheem Sterling should take heed.

This week the unfortunate Manchester City and England star found himself in the tabloid firing line, so to speak, for having a mildly tasteless tattoo on his leg. 

Were the papers to harass every footballer guilty of this crime, then they would surely have to commission bumper supplements every day of the week; but Sterling seems to be special.

He is the perfect UK tabloid target: Young, black, rich, and from an underprivileged background. Class loathing remains the great British disease — anyone from the wrong side of the tracks doing well is suspected of being a degenerate sponger, which, as we know, is the royal family’s job.

Sterling had to explain the ‘deeper meaning’ behind the machine gun tattoo to exculpate himself from the faux outrage; he was backed by the FA, who clearly have no problem with guns, given that England matches and FA Cup finals are regularly plastered in army regalia, RAF flyovers and all manner of militaristic pomp. Of course, these events feature the right type of guns — the ones the UK sells by the bucketload to places like Saudi Arabia.

But using the Sergio Ramos approach to sporting success, Sterling should have brazened it out, doubled down with some real shithousery — just as Ramos followed up his Brazilian jiu jitsu move on Mo Salah with a sneaky flying elbow to the head of Loris Karius, topped off with an outrageous dive which left the penalised Sadio Mane speechless at its audacity. And then there was the selfie stick.

By that logic, Sterling’s response to the critics should have been an Instagram pic of him sitting on a nuclear warhead, firing off AK47 rounds like he was at an IS wedding.

And he could spread the word to his England colleagues. Some suspected that England teams featuring the likes of David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and John Terry failed at major tournaments because of innate character flaws. But it turns out that, going by the Real Madrid model, their characters just weren’t quite flawed enough.

Previous thinking had it that being selfish, egotistical, and arrogant was a barrier to success, when Real prove it’s clearly the recipe for it.

Harry Kane shows potential. Scrounging that goal against Stoke off Christian Eriksen to boost his pursuit of individual scoring records was a pure Ronaldo move; but you wonder if it came to the crunch, say, of a Champions League final in which he had been pretty anonymous, would Kane have the chutzpah to turn the post-match interviews into a discussion about his future? Perhaps a move to the Bernabeu would allow him to shake off the last vestiges of nagging humility.

You’d fear for this current England crop in that regard. Beaten down by their predecessors’ failures, they seem a more modest bunch, and, many would say, with much to be modest about: A trait that can be troublesome when staring down the barrel of a humiliating last-16 exit.

Real Madrid have no such problems. People have been wondering whether, with their four Champions League titles in five seasons, Real can be considered one of the all-time great club sides. It seems self-evident: Statistically their only rivals are their own 1950s incarnation and the three- in-a-row Ajax and Bayern Munich teams of the 1970s.

But few have rushed to anoint this Real team, for a variety of reasons. There’s the failure to dominate domestically — just one La Liga title in five years. There’s the fact that their wins have been characterised by a scarcely credible hotch-potch of opposition goalkeeping howlers, controversial decisions, patchy performances, and occasional moments of transcendent brilliance. Then there’s modern football’s accumulation of wealth in the hands of a select few clubs, which kinda makes their job a bit easier.

But not to give them their due would be akin to skipping over the Roman Empire in history class because they did a bit too much killing and invading, and anyway the Greeks had plays and nice vases.

This Real team represent the culmination of pretty much all of football’s modern vices added to the weight of their own monumental history, and what has resulted is a suffocating sense of shameless entitlement that rolls into the latter stages of the Champions League every year like a thick, impenetrable fog.

This terrifying hubris leaves opposing goalkeepers a wobbly mess, referees as grovelling supplicants and, as Ramos blithely cavorts with the Champions League trophy again, the rest of us coming to terms with the moral vacuum at the heart of a universe in which this team of glorious bastards reign supreme.

But really, a selfie stick?


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