Captain, leader, talisman. Sergio Ramos has never been as important to Real Madrid as he is right now.
Madrid’s captain bagged a remarkable 100th goal for the club in the crucial 3-2 victory over Inter Milan in the Champions League on Tuesday night, a victory that keeps the club’s hopes of progression to the knockout stages in tact.
That feat is sensational for a defender. The quantity, and the quality, and it’s no coincidence that Ramos’ goals-to-games ratio has improved in recent seasons after becoming the club’s out-and-out talisman following the departure of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus.
Ramos has found the back of the net on a regular basis but he’s more than just goals. That upturn has signified a new dependence on the Spanish international, something highlighted in recent weeks.
A recent knock saw Ramos sit out the matches against Cádiz, in LaLiga, and Shakhtar Donetsk, in the Champions League – both matches resulting in defeat for Madrid. His first match back, the Clásico against Barcelona at the Camp Nou, resulted in a huge three points domestically and while a 2-2 draw at Borussia was disappointing, the victory over Inter has left progression from the group in Madrid’s own hands.
Madrid have looked lost in the matches without their No.4. Raphael Varane, one of the most dependable defenders in the world, has looked lost without his central-defensive partner, too. In Manchester, for last season’s Champions League last-16 clash, the Frenchman was at error for both goals in a 2-1 defeat. While he and Eder Militao are both superb defenders, they look a lot better with Ramos by their side.
It’s not just at the back, however. Ramos gives Madrid the drive they need all over the pitch, from back to front. If he isn’t literally pushing forward himself into attacking positions, he’s pushing forward as a back four, and the rest of the team with him.
Despite his 34 years of age, Ramos arguably looks as strong as he ever has done, and that’s with his contract ticking down in the Spanish capital. Surely those in charge can’t look past offering him a new deal to finish his career at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Madrid need Ramos more than they ever have this season.