Sergio Ramos received two dubious yellow cards yesterday in Madrid's 2-2 draw to Osasuna courtesy of referee Clos Gómez. While both calls were harsh and arguably wrong, Ramos did not help his case by pulling a move he so often does against rival players: raising his arm and using his elbow to stop an opponent in his tracks. Now, do rival players make a meal of the collision and hit the floor as though they've been struck by an anvil in a Looney Tunes episode? Of course they do. Still, how many times must Ramos get booked for this little move before he abolishes it from his repertoire?
While Ramos might perceive himself to be a hard defender in the vein of a Fernando Hierro or Paolo Maldini, he's getting booked more for his infantile fouls than, say, a late tackle on 50/50 ball. In fact, some of the fouls he commits strike me as downright lazy. For such a strong, resilient and athletic player, Ramos consistently employs his physicality in a series of chippy fouls rather than trying to cleanly overcome his opponent. To use a basketball analogy, Ramos needs to stop trying to set illegal picks and actually do some defending.
Before I continue, I do need to clarify that I love Sergio Ramos and admire his football as well as his passion, loyalty, and team spirit. There's no denying that Madrid's #4 is a multi-faceted player who can lead our back line while also netting free kicks and scoring towering headers. He's as charismatic as he is frustrating, and I wouldn't want him at any other club.
Still, at 27 years old, and with two European cups and one World Cup under his belt (not to mention various club trophies), I don't think I'm wrong in demanding more from the Vice-Captain of Real Madrid. With Casillas on the bench for league matches, it's up to Ramos to lead by example and help maintain his side's discipline, composure and focus, especially when the going gets rough. As a defender, his vantage point of the game is invaluable and he's looked to as a source of inspiration and never-say-die attitude (see: Dortmund game earlier this year). He can't continue to compromise his team by committing silly fouls while on yellow cards and pretend he doesn't have a negative reputation with referees. After all, he holds the record for accumulating the most red cards of any player in Real Madrid history.
I hate to single out a Madrid player for criticism, I really do. But enough is enough. It's time for Sergio to grow up and drop the street-ball act. It's been a long time since he left the playgrounds of Sevilla, and he can't continue to commit the same mistake over and over again and expect a different result. Ramos has the silverware to back his status as a world-class defender, but does he have the attitude? If he can improve his decision-making and overcome his reputation, he could easily become one of the greatest players to ever don the white shirt. Madridistas believe in Ramos' potential, but after eight years with the capital club, the clock is certainly ticking.