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What is going on with Sergio Ramos?

Ed Álvarez tries to make sense of the last 10 days

Sergio Ramos Presents New Book ‘Sergio Ramos. Corazon, Caracter y Pasion’ Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Are you confused with the most recent Ramos saga? So was I. It was time to dig a little and try to put together the different pieces of the puzzle. After some research, the following 1,100 words summarise the version of the story that makes most sense, although I’d recommend that you take all this as entertainment rather than as news.

Real Madrid CF v SD Huesca - La Liga
Thanks for everything, folks
Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

It all started on the 24th of May. Using some a couple of his informal, but well-known spokesmen disguised as journalists, Ramos leaks his intention to leave the club. Apparently, after 14 seasons it’s time to go. According to these journos extremely close to Ramos, it’s the perfect moment to allow youngsters to take over, to facilitate the change of the guard rather than obstruct it, thus behaving like the responsible skipper he always wanted to be. The fact that the end of the season has been disappointing also matters: Ramos was upset with fans and club management as his intelligence – that yellow against Ajax – and commitment – where was he during the last month of competition? – had been questioned. When, within all that context, a huge offer from China appears why not take it? Huge means 25 million euros a year after tax, which… well, it IS huge.

The timing of the leak wasn`t innocent either: the whole “news” appeared on the 5th anniversary of Ramos’ header in Lisbon, as the social networks showed all kind of angles of his goal and people got reminded of Ramos’ legendary status among the most memorable Real Madrid players. A great player deserves a generous farewell, indeed.

Real Madrid v Atletico de Madrid - UEFA Champions League Final
Timing was not accidental
Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Of course, to the average Madridista it all sounded like major BS – my apologies, but I can’t think of many captains of top-level clubs who have left for China when they still had decent gas in the tank. The fact that Ramos decided to generate all this noise in a moment when the club priorities are clearly elsewhere – Pogba? Mbappe? Hazard, anybody? – led some of us to believe that he wanted a new revision of his contract, although the numbers already look quite generous: he started making 9 million euros in 2015-16 and will finish with 17 million euros in 2020-21. That, dear friends, is also after-tax money, so Ramos’ would become the highest salary in the squad, but it’s still a far cry from the Chinese offer. With that option on the table, it could be perfectly imaginable that he wanted a raise or an extra year, but why the noise? Why make the whole thing so public?

Well, he awoke the beast. On the 28th of May, in an extremely rare public appearance, Florentino granted Onda Cero a long interview during which he devoted a disproportionate amount of time to discuss the rumours surrounding Ramos and openly explained what the situation was, with an openness so rare that any evil-minded listener would have to think that Perez’s only objective was to ridicule Ramos.

Sergio Ramos Agrees New Five-Year Contract With Real Madrid
Happier times aka contract extension
Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

With his most patient tone of voice, Florentino explained that the skipper had asked to leave for free – his release clause is 800 Million euros! – because he indeed had that fantastic offer from China. Of course, Perez could not allow that to happen in the interest of the club, and reminded Ramos of the several “efforts” – financially speaking – that the club had already done for the player. I immediately called a friend to check that we’d heard the same thing: the President was discussing a contract negotiation with a player in public media, something of which I only remember a few instances in the past, none of them finishing well.

If you thought that the interview was pretty damning for Ramos, you only had to wait one more day to pity him a bit more, assuming that pitying Ramos is an option for any human on Earth. In any case, on the 29th of May a couple of online media shared with us the real reasons – at least from their point of view – behind Ramos’ interest to leave the coolest club in the world: a real estate investment from the early 00’s for which he owed 35 million euros in the form of a bank loan that is already in arrears. This prompted several other media to publish a list of Ramos’ investments to a mindboggling level of detail: real estate, horses, more real estate and of course the money he lost with the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers. One could think that Ramos wanted to leave for free to cash on those 25 million a year and face his debtors with more confidence... and money. But again, it’s just a possibility.

Mutua Madrid Open - Day Five
Some spare change, Fenómeno?
Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images

Quick tangent: seeing Ramos’ eye with his investments, one remembers what the great Raimundo Saporta, right hand of Santiago Bernabeu, used to do with newcomers. He’d take the player to his office to ask him a few questions. One of them always was: “We are going to pay you 100,000 pesetas per month. What are you going to do with the money?”. The player would go into deep detail, explaining that his sister wanted to open a salon, his brother an auto dealer and his dad was interested in the stock market. Saporta would then ask: “How much money do you expect them to make in all those activities?”. The player would guess: “20,000 pesetas per month, maybe”. And here would come Saporta’s slap: “Great, so your salary has now been increased to 120,000 pesetas per month. You are here to play football for Real Madrid, and only that. We want your full attention. Your absolute focus must be the pitch, the team and the club. I don’t want anything distracting you from that”. Sounds very logical, but try convincing Ramos or his business partner Pique of that nowadays.

Back to the topic. No one can confirm or deny that Ramos’ financial difficulties were leaked by an interested party, but you know how all this circus works. The skipper was cornered and had to react. He did his best with a press conference on the 30th of May, but if you listen to the whole thing it’s hard to find coherence in the words of Sergio. He could not say that Florentino had lied, but at the same time he wanted to deny that he’d asked to leave for free, so in different moments of the presser he simply did both. Has this public statement helped his cause? I don’t think so. Can the Madridistas look the other way when their skipper embarrasses himself with such an infantile approach trying to play no other than Florentino? Absolutely.

Previews - UEFA Champions League Final
It was a huge offer, but not quite
Photo by Handout/UEFA via Getty Images

But my concern is exactly that: the Bernabeu already thinks that Ramos gave up on the season too early and abandoned his teammates with the awful job of finishing this terrible year. The injury he mentioned in his presser did not quite convince many of us. On top of that, the socios remember well that he’s already threatened to leave before, so this bizarre attempt to flee for Chinese money may have a brutal impact on his reputation.

The good thing about sports is that you always have a few matches coming up to get back on track. If I’m not wrong, Ramos will need a very good start of the season if he wants to have the Bernabeu on his side. And our best, more forgiving half is rooting for that to happen.

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