I have never seen Real Madrid without Sergio Ramos and I guess the kid in me never thought I would. It’s irrational to think that Ramos would play forever but even when countless rumors and reports signaled that his time at Real Madrid had come to an end I didn’t believe it. I was sure that he would renew because, for me, Ramos is Real Madrid and I struggle to imagine Los Blancos without their captain.
Ramos is undoubtedly one of the greatest defenders of all time but Madridistas were given a look at what life without him looked like when he was injured toward the end of the 2021 season. Éder Militão, Nacho, and Raphaël Varane stepped up admirably in his absence and even performed well in the Champions League knockout stages, something Real Madrid haven’t been able to do without Ramos for years.
Yet there is something irreplaceable about El Capitán. He has been at Real Madrid for 16 seasons, made 671 appearances, and scored 101 goals. Ramos has lifted the Champions League trophy four times (three as captain) and has won La Liga five times. He has also conquered the FIFA Club World Cup four times, the Supercopa de España four times, the UEFA Supercup three times, and the Copa del Rey twice, not to mention the countless individual accolades.
It is hard to find a player of Ramos’ class and experience and replacing him is impossible. He is an integral part of Real Madrid on and off the field. It is a shame that the Santiago Bernabéu is unable to give its captain a proper goodbye because the fans, and the club itself, will be left with a giant hole in their white hearts.
Ramos is as much a part of Real Madrid and the Bernabéu as any player ever was. He embodies the canción ‘Hasta el final, vamos Real’ that is echoed around the stadium when Real Madrid is in need of some late magic. In those situations, Ramos was always there to answer the call.
The captain led by example and believed that Los Blancos could get a result no matter the deficit. Ramos scored the header in the 93rd minute to tie the 2014 Champions League Final against Atlético Madrid. Everyone thought Atleti had won their first Champions League title but Ramos rose to the occasion to help Real Madrid snag victory from the jaws of defeat, giving Los Blancos their first UCL title after a 12-year drought.
Ramos arrived on time to score in the Champions League Final against Atleti again in 2016 and also stepped up and converted a penalty in the shootout to give Real Madrid their second UCL title in three years.
The captain was always where he needed to be in the magical 2017 season when Real Madrid won the double. His heroics started as early as 9 Aug. 2016. The captain forced extra time against Sevilla in the 93rd minute of the Supercopa de España after dispatching a clutch header — something that we have all become accustomed to. Los Merengues went on to win 3-2.
Ramos was there again on Dec. 3, 2016. Luis Suárez gave FC Barcelona the lead in the 53rd minute of El Clásico. Madrid pushed and pushed for an equalizer but were unable to convert. In added time, Luka Modrić stood over a free-kick and swung it into the area. There was only ever one target and that was Ramos. The ball arrived and the center-back whipped his head to meet the ball and slammed it past Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. He silenced the Camp Nou and Real Madrid were 33 matches unbeaten. Ramos provided another late goal seven days later against Deportivo de La Coruña.
Yet, he wasn’t done, instigating two goals in the second leg of the Champions League round of 16 against Napoli. He scored one header while another one took a deflection and was ruled as an own goal. He added another game-winning header in Real Madrid’s 2-1 win over Betis in March.
Los Blancos secured the La Liga title against Málaga with a 2-0 win, and all eyes turned to the Champions League Final against Juventus. Ramos captained the team that dismantled the Italians, allowing Madrid to become the first side to defend their title in the Champions League era. And then, unfathomably, they defended it again the next year.
From 2016-2019, the competition’s commercials were littered with Ramos hoisting the Champions League Trophy. Though Ramos did not manage to experience European glory for a fifth time, he continued to lead the team to trophies with his dominating play at the back and his prowess in front of goal.
The 2019-20 La Liga season was defined by the return to play after the world stopped due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Real Madrid came back from the break and were unbeatable in the league. Los Blancos won ten straight matches after the restart and drew their final match with Leganés after already securing the title. The stretch was defined by Real Madrid’s defensive solidity and Ramos and Benzema shouldering the scoring load.
The 2020-21 season was not the fairytale ending that Ramos deserved. Players rarely get that type of farewell at Real Madrid, after all. But Ramos has etched himself into the history of the club. One cannot speak of the dominance of Real Madrid and its romantic history in the Champions League without mentioning the importance of their imperious captain, who was so crucial in defense and attack.
When the Grada sings ‘Hasta el final, vamos Real’ Ramos’s heroics flash back in your mind with a white hot intensity. When the fans return to the Bernabéu and wave the giant white flag printed with a black No. 4, fans will first think of their all-important captain even though so many other greats have donned the same number. Madridistas will sing of La Décima and Madridistas will be elated with the joy and hope brought to them by Ramos’s 93rd-minute header.
We may not hear the call and response of: “Y marca un gol, Y marca un gol, Y Sergio Ramos, marca un gol…” for some time, but Ramos’s legacy will still be felt throughout the Bernabéu now and forever, because he embodies something intangible, something so Real Madrid that it’s hard to put into words.
Ramos arrived in Madrid in 2005 as a young right back from Sevilla and he leaves in 2021 as the greatest defender to ever play the game and a legend of the club and football as a whole.
It will pain me to see Ramos in another kit and the way the club has handled his departure has left a bitter taste in my mouth. But when I think of Ramos, my Madridista heart glimmers with joy because of all the trials and tribulations it feels like we conquered together. Ramos is so intrinsically Madridista it feels as though the club has lost a piece of its soul. He will forever be the person I imagine when I think of the captain of Real Madrid — someone who loves the club unconditionally and will fight until the very end.
Hasta Pronto Capitán y Hasta el Final, Vamos Real,
- A Madridista