In May 2006, Real Madrid opened the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium against 1956 and 1959 European Cup finalist rivals, Stade de Reims. After a bright start, the hosts launched a dangerous cross into area where the blonde locks of a young Sergio Ramos was waiting. After being denied from the header, Ramos slammed home the first ever goal scored at the Di Stefano stadium.
Fast forward 14 years later and it hardly seems surprising that Ramos would find himself once again on the score sheet for the Di Stefano’s LaLiga debut. The Spanish defender has now scored 118 goals for club and country with 92 of those strikes coming in the royal white of Real Madrid. In context, that makes Ramos Real Madrid’s third highest all time active goalscorer (behind Karim Benzema and Gareth Bale). He has already scored more goals than Guti, Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane did at Real Madrid and is 13 goals away from equalling Gareth Bale’s tally at the club.
Notably, that tap-in against Eibar was his 67th league goal which ties him with Ronald Koeman as LaLiga’s highest ever goalscoring defender. Its an impressive achievement given, of those 67, only 11 were penalties compared to Koeman’s 46. In league play, Sergio Ramos has scored more goals than Dani Parejo, Gerard Moreno, Xavi and the original Luis Suarez.
It’s hard to find reliable stats of football’s highest goalscoring defenders, however, most sources put the most achievable tally for Ramos at 130, which would put him among the top five. Real Madrid’s highest scoring defender is Fernando Hierro with 136, however its worth noting that Hierro scored most of those goals from midfield so Ramos is already, in a sense, the club’s most lethal defender.
As he inches toward the exclusive century tally in all-white, its hard to find new angles to approach with Ramos’s goalscoring. However, given he continues to topple records in the department, I’ve broken down his goals to try get a sense of what it all means.
Outside of 67 LaLiga goals (of which 66 have come in a Real Madrid shirt), Ramos goals by competition breaks down like this.
His tally of 21 international goals makes him Spain’s 10th all time top goalscorer, far off David Villa’s 59 but in reach of Alfredo Di Stefano’s 23, Emilio Butragueno 26 and Hierro’s 29. His Champions League tally of 13 means he is the third highest active European goalscorer for Real Madrid. Amongst those goals, are two in two different finals, equalling Raul’s finals tally. He is only bettered for European final goals by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas to name a few.
Ramos’s first Real Madrid goal also came amongst those 13 Champions League strikes, in a 2 -1 loss to Olympiacos. The youngster would score five more times for Real Madrid that season, having put himself on Los Blancos radar earlier that year thanks to a 30-yard free kick with Sevilla. That strike came in LaLiga and the teenager’s performance that day in May certainly left an impression, “we weren’t surprised because of his goal; we were surprised because of his level,” Paco Pavon, who played for Real Madrid at the time, told Bleacher Report in 2018. ”It was like a great player had suddenly appeared in La Liga and also one who was so young. From the first moment, it was obvious he was a guy that had a splendid future.”
Upon arriving at Real Madrid in the summer of 2005, he requested Hierro’s number 4 and publicly stated his goal was to surpass Hierro, something he often reminded his teammates of according to an El Mundo interview from September of that year “I’ve told them that my aim is to achieve the same kind of numbers that Fernando Hierro and Raul did for this club.”
Following that six in 2005/06, Ramos has maintained a pretty consistent scoring record as he inches towards Hierro’s career record.
For comparison, Koeman twice scored 19 goals in a season while Fernando Hierro hit 25 in 1991/92, however Hierro did play large parts of that campaign further forward while just 15 of Koeman’s collective 38 goals over two seasons came from open play.
Ramos early scoring didn’t rely much on penalties, in fact, just one of his first 50 goals in a Real Madrid shirt came from the penalty spot. That goal came in November 2010 when Cristiano Ronaldo (on a hat-trick) offered Ramos the shot from the spot. Two years later, his relationship with the spot in the box changed drastically when he skied his penalty against Bayern Munich, causing Real Madrid to exit the Champions League at the semi-final stage once more. The Spanish defender was brutally taken apart online.
“There is no time to feel sorry for oneself in football,” he assured club sources the following weekend, however he had quite a different reaction behind close doors. A few months later, he returned to the penalty spot. It was the 2012 European championship against Portugal, Spain were inches away from the final
“Believe it or not, it was completely premeditated and well-planned from the day that I unfortunately missed the penalty against Neuer – for everything that was said, all the repercussions.” Ramos explained to FourFourTwo two years after the famous paneka, “In that sense, that penalty was more for my family than for anything that affected me, which is obviously a disappointment given that the Champions League Final was only a whisker away. You always remember the pain and the negativity after something like that. It was more in honour of my mother and my sister, who are the two that always suffer most: they deserved an eternal moment to cherish from my career, and I think that was one.”
Since that Bayern miss, Ramos has stepped up to the mark on multiple occasions. He scored in the 2016 Champions League final penalty shootout and has established himself as Real Madrid’s de facto spot kicker after Ronaldo departure. Of 17 penalties he has taken at Real, he has missed just once and largely opted for the risky paneka, almost as a constant reminder of the complete U-turn his penalty skills have taken since 2012, “I think Ramos could be my best imitator — the best ‘Panenka’ taker since me!” were the words of Anton Paneka, “opposition know all about it but he still manages to do it over and over. It’s great”
Outside of penalties, the rest is pretty straightforward with 59% of his goals scored via a header and 58% coming from some form of set piece though, outside of corners, the breakdown is much tighter than you’d expect.
It probably speaks plenty of my journalistic skills that I’ve managed to put the stat that interested me the most down towards the bottom, nonetheless, 21 goals from open play is quite striking to me. Before diving into this article, I had cast Ramos as something of a one trick pony, looking at his goal tally as somewhat artificial because they had mostly come from the same sources. In hindsight, this is quite an unfair view of Ramos goalscoring exploits and I shouldn’t have needed 21 goals from open play to legitimatise his scoring achievements (it takes plenty of intelligence to score a set piece after all).
As many talented players do early on, Ramos started football life as a forward for his hometown team, Las Camas. The then club president describes Ramos as lightening fast, “The old field of Camas CF was huge and he ran up and down it like a band. It was too small.”
Deployed out wide early in his career, Ramos used that youthful pace to sneak behind markers on counter attacks. His positioning at right back also allowed him to get into the box when the ball was being crossed on the left hand side and utilise his world class jump and heading ability. Many of his goals also display a great deal of tenacity, namely that famous goal against Depor during the 2006/07.
Ramos also has appreciation for the spectacular, with bicycle kicks against Sevilla and APOEL coming to mind.
Positioned largely at centre back since 2012/13, Ramos has had to demonstrate a little more intelligence and to be more calculated about when he enters the box. It’s something he struggled with at the start, but has increasingly began to get a grapple of with his latest goal against Eibar the perfect example of these new skills.
What has struck me breaking down these goals is how inseparable they are from the traits that also make Sergio Ramos a great defender. He has taken the baseline defensive qualities and turned them into lethal attacking ones which have yielded a gluttony of goals you wouldn’t expect from a defender. These traits are present in alot of great defenders, however, the difference between Sergio Ramos and alot of great defenders is his competitive streak.
Sergio Ramos didn’t have to be a lethal penalty taker and, despite the humiliation he received on social media, no one would have criticised him for only marginally or completely ignoring his penalty taking ability following that Bayern miss.
What Ramos did instead was Jordan-esque. Not only did he improve his penalty taking skills so substantially that he is now Real Madrid’s de-facto taker, but he also has taken the most audacious penalty shooting style and made it his own.
A similar tale lies with his heading ability. At 6 foot, Ramos is just above average in the height department. Becoming a lethal header of the ball shouldn’t really be something he has in his locker, but the Spanish defender found a way to become the world’s best at it.
In his case for being among the greatest ever centre backs, the goals on Sergio Ramos’s resume are seen as an unnecessary extra, more of a hindrance to his legacy than a plus. I think that attitude misses the fundamental point of Sergio Ramos’s greatness. That he, like so many of the greats before him, are so much more than their job description.