Sergio Ramos entered last week as Real Madrid’s vice-captain, second longest serving player and fan favourite.
But the defender’s future at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu now looks seriously in question, after a fallout with the real power at the club.
On Wednesday evening, hours after Ramos had extended his Madrid club record of red cards to 17 with a foolish sending off against Galatasaray in the Champions League, came surprise reports of a more serious split between Ramos and Madrid president Florentino Perez.
Extremely well connected radio host Jose Ramon de la Morena said the pair’s previous close relationship had been strained since last season’s ‘either Jose Mourinho goes or we go’ ultimatum given to Perez, and had deteriorated further in August when Ramos asked to improve his current contract, worth €5.5m a year until 2017.
The World Cup winner revealed, as leverage, that he had received offers from other teams. But Florentino called the bluff, saying Ramos could leave if another club — even La Liga rivals Barcelona — paid €65m.
Since then, the story went, the pair had not spoken.
Apparent confirmation came when Ramos publicly snubbed Perez at a sponsors’ event on Thursday, deliberately looking away as his ultimate boss approached to say hello. The incident was widely shown on Spanish TV, and his comments at the event closely analysed.
“Unity is the most important thing in the dressing-room,” Ramos said. “Respect and unity should never be missing from any job.”
Ramos’ future was thus unsurprisingly the main talking point among observers at Madrid training on Friday morning — when coach Carlo Ancelotti, who appears to prefer Pepe and Raphael Varane at centre-back, was spotted talking at length to the defender while team-mates exercised as usual.
“I have no problem with Sergio Ramos, and he has no problem with me,” Ancelotti said afterwards. “Everyone knows how important Ramos is. (And) the president gets on very well with all the players.”
That last part is not really true. De la Morena broke news of a similar row between Perez and Cristiano Ronaldo last season, just after the attacker revealed his infamous “sadness”. The public pique lasted a full year, before a smiley ‘reconciliation’ as a bumper new contract was finally signed in September.
Ronaldo is irreplaceable, but other players less so. Club captain Iker Casillas, who also challenged Perez over Mourinho’s behaviour, is now back-up keeper at the Bernabeu and rumoured to be available for transfer next month. Further back is the example of former Madrid winger Luis Figo, famously secured from Barcelona by Florentino in 2000, but bumped aside five years later to make room for newer galactico David Beckham.
Figo told De La Morena recently that Florentino had forced him out of the club, as the millionaire businessman did not like players who challenged his authority.
Ramos’ case now looks quite similar, and Saturday’s papers were full of potential interest from Chelsea and Manchester City. With Varane sidelined he played all of Saturday’s 4-0 La Liga win at home to Real Valladolid — and was keen to appear conciliatory when speaking afterwards.
The Andalucian said in the mixed zone that he and ‘el presi’ had some issues, which had been resolved and he had even given his jersey from the game to Perez as a gift.
“These are conversations like you could have with your father, or brother,” Ramos said. “What was said stays between us. I am not looking for a new contract or anything like that. There is mutual affection and respect.
“I would love to stay here for the rest of my career.”
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