Madrid, Monday, PeopleSports11
More than an hour after the final whistle had sounded on Real Madrid’s 3-0 humiliation by Eibar on Saturday, Sergio Ramos began to let rip.
Deep in the belly of the tiny 7,083-capacity Ipurua stadium, Ramos said his side’s attitude had been off, their intensity lacking. “When you don’t match your opponent, you become a vulgar team,” he said.
It was not the result Real wanted before they travel to Roma in the Champions League on Tuesday when the winner is likely to go through the top of Group G.
Then Ramos moved onto the anti-doping allegations published on Friday by German magazine Der Spiegel.
The most damaging among them claimed Ramos tested positive for dexamethasone after the 2017 Champions League final and failed to declare it, as is required according to World Anti-Doping Authority regulations.
Responding for the first time, Ramos said: “You can tell a lie many times over but it is still a lie.” He added: “These types of people try to stain my reputation and my professional career.”
The issue may have been exceptional but the sharpness of tongue and apparent readiness for confrontation has become a vivid part of Ramos’ football persona.
In September, Antoine Griezmann was in the firing line when Ramos used a Champions League press conference to slap down the Frenchman’s pinings for the Ballon d´Or.
“Ignorance is bold,” Ramos said, poker-faced. More recently, he turned Antonio Conte from favourite to no-hoper in the running to replace Julen Lopetegui as Real coach. “Respect is earned, not imposed”, Ramos said, supposedly a dig at Conte, a renowned disciplinarian.
This pugnacious Ramos off the pitch chimes so perfectly with his demonic reputation on it and so it seems possible that one of the game’s most reviled characters has begun to revel in the noise that surrounds him.
He is loved by Real Madrid, their captain and winner of four Champions League titles, as well as another four in La Liga. He is liked too at the Benito Villamarin, where Real Betis fans still appreciate him leaving their rivals, Sevilla.
But there are few stadiums where the sound of screeching whistles are not heard as soon as Ramos leaves an opposition striker in a heap.
Lionel Messi knows the feeling. In 2010, Ramos lashed him to the ground with a swinging left boot and in 2017, clattered him again, sliding in as Barca threatened a counter-attack. -AFP