La Roja teammates on Sergio Ramos (II)
Here are the rest of the mini essays that Sergio’s La Roja teammates and coaches wrote about him!
We met each other through the senior national team, during the qualification for the 2006 World Cup. Our chats began during a concentración at La Calderona before playing against Lithuania and Bosnia. He was in the group of Andalusians, with Joaquín, Juanito and Marchena, and I was also drawn to them, but I was with the card playing group, the “pocheros,” which were Villa, Pablo, Iker and Antonio López.
The friendship grew bit by bit. The truth is that it took us some time to get close. We don’t have much in common. Our families began traveling together, and they got along very well. His family is made up of wonderful, marvelous people who are very much like mine and that also threw us together, to the point that now we’re closer than ever. This past summer, I went to his sister’s wedding and with time I’ve realized that Sergio is one of those who is worth it. He’s very pure, as he likes to say. He’s a good friend of his friends. He’s always watching out for his people. He’s very andaluz, very happy.
We’ve organized our fiestas flamenquitas together, with our common friends. The first time was in the summer of 2009 in Córdoba and we repeated it in Madrid, in a tentadero. The only place we haven’t done it is Sevilla. These parties begin at three in the afternoon and end at seven in the morning. We’re a bit chauvinistic during them because the men are on one side with the guitar and the singing, and the women are on the other doing their own thing.
Sergio is always joking around and that’s why he accepts it when others play jokes on him. The last one he played on me was telling me that he couldn’t make it to my birthday, that he wasn’t coming, and then he came to surprise me. As soon as you look away, he does something to you. He likes to give people nicknames. The last thing he did was change all the names on the lockers; you wouldn’t believe what a mess that was. The biggest one could be what happened one night when we went out after a qualifying game for the 2008 Eurocopa. When we returned to the hotel, we found a broken down bicycle thrown out onto the street. I don’t know how it ended up in the river.
I have also noticed that he refers to himself in the third person. [Jajaja!!!!]
I had retired the year before he arrived in Madrid. If I hadn’t, he would have retired me, and it would have made no difference to me. He was already something extraordinary back then, for how young he was and how he adapted to Real Madrid. Even though he already had one year with Sevilla in the first division under his belt, his rapid adaptation to a club that I know very well was unusual, as it’s not something that everyone can do. The challenge didn’t frighten him, that much was clear.
You have to have a lot of confidence in yourself, great mental and physical strength and a fantastic maturity to do what he did. When he arrived, we met through mutual friends. He always wanted to know things and to meet people who could help him. He asked me about the club, about the city, about certain teammates. He opened his eyes wide as he listened. He was a sponge. I was proud that he asked for my shirt number, but I’ve always said that the numbers don’t belong to the players, they belong to the club. I believe this was just another example of his confidence in himself.
Later on, we coincided during my time as sporting director of the national team. He managed to wreak havoc on me several times. As I say, he’s more of a “Protestant” than a Catholic. He’s always protesting and demanding things. He always has something to vindicate. He asks for explanations for everything. It’s part of his learning process.
He goes up to you, he says two things to you, he tells you two jokes and then he comes out with it. How he asks for things is part of his personality, but it’s true that he’s charming when he asks for things. He says things to your face and says what he thinks and that is both good and bad. We’ve had different criteria on quite a few occasions but in the end he’s always ended up understanding and accepting the things. Of course, you have to be prepared to discuss things with him. If not, he’ll walk all over you.
Whenever I watch him play, I always think that he has no limits. His physical condition is natural and his technique is spectacular. He’s always been under a lot of pressure since the beginning. In defensive positions, time always runs in favor of the player. I say that from experience. He’ll be the one to set his limits, but his maturity will help him a lot.
I always say that for cases such as that of Sergio Ramos or similar ones, those who are the interested ones are the ones who put or take away, or call or don’t call, in the case of the national team. We were in the midst of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup and Sergio was a starter with Sevilla. We also knew him well from the lower categories, since my assistant Armando Ufarte had him on the U-19 team which won the European championship.
In his case, his age wasn’t an inconvenience, but rather a plus. It said 18 on his national ID card, but not on his footballer card. He was a physical wonder and he had quality. We had Míchel Salgado as the fullback, but we thought about the future. You can’t say no to a player like Sergio just because he’s 18 years old or because you have someone for the position.
We called him up and he did his duty. Since we had Salgado, we could save him. In the beginning, he wasn’t a guaranteed starter, but afterward he won the position. It was only him. He started the game against Serbia in Belgrade, and demonstrated his maturity. It was a difficult field with a difficult crowd and he did not get scared.
I’ve had many chats with Sergio. You have to let young guys like him get everything off of their chests, as well as help them and guide them to the right path. As a person, he’s a great boy. He says whatever’s on his mind. He doesn’t mince words. We’ve had our small discussions, but nothing more than that.
I thought the 2008 Eurocopa was the adequate moment to explain to him how football is and how the common good is always more important than the individual. It’s not that he didn’t know it, but it’s always good to remind them of that on a regular basis. I don’t consider him a rebel, but rather someone who expresses his opinion politely and sincerely.
As a footballer, he is how he is and he will be better. We used him as a fullback and in many moments the entire wing was his. He liked to attack and sometimes we had to pull him back, but his physical capacity allowed him to go up and down many times. As a centerback, he’s becoming more well-balanced. This could be his position for the rest of his career because he’s gaining experience, but for us, as a fullback, he was a guarantee.
I’m two years older than Sergio and the first time we met was with the U-21 team. I debuted at the age of 19 in September of 2003 and he came the next season when he was already playing with Sevilla’s first team. He was only 18, but already playing for the U-21 team, and even too good to be with us. Not much time later, Luis Aragonés called him up for the senior team, so he wasn’t with the U-21 team for long. He even debuted a year before me.
His physical prowess was already extraordinary back then. He was already formed. We never know the reasons why we hit it off with one teammate rather than another, but it’s true that we hit it off quickly, from the first day that he came for the concentración. He was a rightback and went up the wing every time he could.
The regard we have for each other can be felt, at least I feel it and I believe it’s reciprocated and has grown with time. More than eight years have passed since we met. We don’t need to speak every day, but when we see each other when playing for the national team, we ask about each other’s families and how things are going for the other, and I’m happy that he wanted me to be present in his book because that shows that he has a good opinion of me.
For me, he’s one of the best centerbacks in the world. He has a lot of personality, a lot of character. He’s a physical marvel [everyone says that!] and very good when he has the ball at his feet. I’m surprised by how much confidence he has in himself. He has a lot. In football terms, he has all the qualities to be the best.
I’m not one who remembers anecdotes; in fact I’m really bad at remembering them. But I can say that with regards to the music, Sergio has improved a lot and there are even some songs that I like and all now…