“Oh no, not I, I will survive
Oh, as long as I know how to love,
I know I’ll stay aliveI’ve got all my life to live
And I’ve got all my love to give and I’ll survive
I will survive, hey, hey”
(Freddie Perren, Dino Fekaris, Gloria Gaynor, Album: Love tracks, 1978)
Sergio Ramos, a teenage defender, appeared in only seven league games for Sevilla during the 2003–04 season. By the following season, in 2004-05, he would be a regular in the first team at age 18. He played as a right-back in Sevilla’s 1-0 win at the Santiago Bernabeu on Matchday 17. In the return fixture on Matchday 36, Ramos started as a center-back, with Dani Alves slotting in at right-back. The Real Madrid XI had names like Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldo Nazario, and David Beckham.
Sevilla won a free-kick around the quarter-hour mark in the game. Sergio Ramos smashed home from 35 yards out after a lay-off from Brazilian midfielder Renato. A star was born. Amidst the wild celebrations in the stadium, the broadcasting camera theatrically panned to Florentino Perez at the President’s Box of the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan—the foreshadowing of an incredible story that took place without anyone knowing.
Sevilla were 2-0 up in that game, with the second goal coming from Julio Baptista. Zidane made it 1-2 on the night, and Madrid equalized through an own goal from Sevilla’s captain, Javi Navarro. Real Madrid signed Julio Baptista on the first day of the 2005 summer transfer window, and already deep into their Galactico madness, they signed Sergio Ramos on deadline day. As cliche as it may sound — if not so much for Baptista, but for Ramos and for Real Madrid — the rest indeed was history.
Carlo Ancelotti is a man of great football quotes. He simplified the challenges of a football coach’s day-to-day life in a way only he could. Ancelotti received his master’s degree from the University of Parma in an emotional ceremony recently. In his acceptance speech, the Real Madrid boss mentioned, “Some will say that I have taken few tests; in reality, I have taken many, and every three days I take more.”
However, my favorite Ancelotti quote arrived almost a decade ago. Ancelotti joined Real Madrid in 2013 at a time when they hadn’t won the Champions League for an excruciating 12 years. The dream of La Decima was fading. The nightmare of missing out on La Decima was crippling the hearts of the Madrid faithful all over the world. But Ancelotti calmed them down by saying:
“The line between a dream and an obsession is thin. La Decima is not our obsession. La Decima is our dream”.
Despite Ancelotti’s sincerest attempts, Real Madrid fans were not in a calm state of mind when Atletico Madrid were one and a half minutes away from breaking Real Madrid hearts into unsalvageable pieces. But Sergio Ramos had other ideas, of course. Sergio Ramos’ goal in Lisbon is discussed with the reverence it deserves, but it is never a bad time to remind everyone. This goal is what Real Madrid’s Champions League pedigree in the 21st century stands on. It is at the heart of every Real Madrid highlight reel from there on. No goal will ever be as dramatic.
The unwanted finale
Sergio Ramos has a legacy at Real Madrid that is bigger than every Galactico’s legacy at the club who was signed between 2000 and 2005. Ramos was not just the best defender of his time; he was also a great leader. He led from the front. He transcended when no one else could. He is the personified version of Real Madrid’s never-die mentality.
But Sergio Ramos had to leave the club in deafening silence. A contract feud with the club and the club moving on quickly to sign free-agent David Alaba meant that Sergio Ramos would not get a chance to say goodbye to the Bernabeu with his Real Madrid shirt on.
His final season at the club was played at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium, without spectators, in the middle of the COVID pandemic. His final season was marred with injuries and performances far below his regular level. He broke down immediately after starting his final speech as a Real Madrid player in the media room of the club. He gazed emptily on his laurels for Real Madrid on his way out.
Sergio Ramos, in the era of the Saudi Pro League and multi-million-dollar offers available in the MLS, chose to return to his boyhood club, Sevilla, at the start of this season. His continuity at PSG was never an option, especially after PSG hired Luis Enrique, who dissolved Ramos’s international career. Although not at his peak, Sergio Ramos is still playing at a very high level. The chaos and drama haven’t stopped following him either.
Before the Barcelona-Sevilla fixture, Ramos announced his wish to score his first goal after returning to La Liga against Barcelona. Ironically, he ended up scoring the own goal that won the game for the Cules. Ramos does that—he creates moments in football that take you by surprise like no other footballer does. Most times, it’s for his team; sometimes, it might go against his team. But that is a trade-off you need to happily accept for the legend of Sergio Ramos.
Real Madrid will be facing Sergio Ramos for the first time since he left the club in 2021. It is the blockbuster fixture of Sevilla vs. Real Madrid, one week before the first Clasico of the season. The dramatic worlds of Real Madrid and Sergio Ramos are ready to collide again.