His most recent exploit was to nullify the magical qualities of
Ronaldinho in the classic showdown with Barcelona. Real Madrid
defender Sergio Ramos has over the past two years earned comparison
with Fernando Hierro and Pirri, two legendary Real defenders. But
the youngster with the powerful physique is much more versatile
than those maestros. At the age of 21, he is already a mainstay
with both the
merengues and with the national side, for whom he appeared
at the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany.
Although he will always have a very special place in his heart for Sevilla, the club which nurtured him, today he is entirely converted to the cause of Real. FIFA.com caught up with Ramos in a year when Real Madrid ended their run of bad fortune and picked off their 30th league title.
FIFA.com: Sergio, in the past two seasons you have hardly missed a game for Real Madrid or the Spanish national side. What is your secret?
Sergio Ramos: I have been lucky in that the various coaches I have played under have all put their faith in me. I also look after myself very well. An athlete has to follow a strict diet and properly observe time off; especially when you are turning out for the national side as well as Real Madrid.
We first saw you in central defence but now you have
settled down on the flank. Where do you feel more comfortable
People have asked me that question a million times (laughs) but I've never had a preference. This year they've switched me more to the right flank and I'm fine with that as I have a lot of scope to get forward. It's a much more rewarding position. In a central role you have more responsibility and any mistake can put the keeper at risk. Currently, if I had to make a choice I'd say right wingback, but I like both positions.
You certainly look very comfortable on the flank and with
every game you're homing in on goal. Wouldn't you like to
be a striker?
(Smiles) Could be... when I was little it was a position I liked to play but as the years passed coaches pushed me further back. But I love to get upfield.
But slipping into a more offensive role can pose a risk for the remainder of the back four.
It does have its risks, but the key is for the whole team to coordinate ourselves very well. In Schuster's system we play with two pivots almost on a level hugging the back line and they can cover you perfectly. But, clearly, a counter-attack can sometimes pose you a problem.
You seem to have a good understanding with your team-mates. Is this a reflection of the good atmosphere inside the dressing room?
Yes. It's always been said that there isn't a good atmosphere in this dressing room. But in this, my third year here, I can tell you the atmosphere is great. The players are pulling together which is obviously crucial.
There has always been a lot of speculation about the Madrid dressing room, particularly during the era of the 'galacticos'. Was it as bad as all that?
All of that was speculation and words taken out of context. People don't know what goes on in the dressing room and when the results weren't there they had to write about something and highlighted poor dressing room spirit. But this squad was always united.
Your recent growth as a footballer has been astonishing. They're already calling you the complete player. Is there an element of your game you still have to improve upon ?
Of course. I am very young and my career has been developing very rapidly but I must grasp opportunities. I am very happy with everything that is happening to me. I know I have a lot to learn and must improve and I train every day with that in mind. I work on perfecting my passing skills and tactical sense. I can be better in every department.
You have had and continue to have the good fortune to share a dressing room with brilliant players. Who did you learn from most?
The best players in the world have played here and you glean something from all of them. From Ronaldo, Zidane, Beckham, Roberto Carlos... different players who set their stamp on an era. For me it was a source of tremendous pride to be in the same team as them. It's a shame they have moved on.
You arrived when Lopez Caro was coaching Real Madrid, then won the league title with Fabio Capello and now are experiencing the Schuster era. Whose style did you feel most at ease with?
I feel just as comfortable under Schuster as I did under Capello. But certainly every coach has his way of doing things and has different ideas. A player just has to adapt and the best coaches know how to get the best out of their players.
Recently, Schuster has adopted a serious persona when dealing with the press. How does he respond to your Andalucian wit?
(Smiles) He can give the impression of being very solemn. But we all get along fine with him. He has instilled the right atmosphere in the squad.
What would you fancy more: A final against Barcelona or Sevilla?
Sevilla, as they mean so much to me. As long as we win!
The Spanish national team ended 2007 by booking its berth for the European Championship but along the way we saw a number of results which put qualification in doubt. How did you see things from the dressing room?
The players are very clear on one thing: We were never that bad, nor are we now that brilliant. We calmly went about our job, confident in our chances, despite a few tactical hiccups. In the end, we finished up playing at a very high level and we will try to maintain that level when the moment of truth arrives. We are feeling good about the finals but we won't go in as favourites.
You told us your best memory of 2007 was celebrating the title win with your team-mates. What do you hope 2008 will bring?
The European Championship and the Champions League titles.