Captain Ramos in a class of his own

  • Sergio Ramos is now Europe’s most capped player

  • The Spain captain has moved ahead of Gianluigi Buffon with 177 appearances

  • We look at the stats, unusual facts and highlights from his Roja career

Sergio Ramos has chalked up another record in his remarkable career. When he ran out for Spain’s UEFA Nations League match against Switzerland on Saturday 14 November he became the most capped European player of all time.

The Spain captain was making his 177th appearance for his country, putting him one ahead of Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, another of the continent’s footballing legends. Now 34, Ramos has his sights set on another milestone: the men's world record for international appearances, held by former Egypt player Ahmed Hassan, who retired in 2012. The centre-half is just eight matches away from breaking it.

A member of Spain’s golden generation, the free-scoring defender is the undisputed leader of Luis Enrique’s side. To mark his latest achievement, looks back on his fairy-tale international career.

The world’s ten most capped players

Ahmed HassanEGY1841995 2012
Ahmed MubarakOMA17920032019
Mohammed Al Deayea KSA17819932006
Bader Al MutawaKUW17820032019
Claudio SuárezMEX17719922006
Gianluigi BuffonITA17619972018
Hossam HassanEGY17019852006
Cristiano RonaldoPOR1692003-
Amer ShafiJOR16820022019
Ivan HurtadoECU16819922014
  • Debut: against China PR in March 2005, under Luis Aragones. He was 18.

  • The first 100 caps: the youngest European player to make 100 international appearances. He was 26 when he reached the landmark, against Finland in 2013.

  • Defender or front man?: Ramos recently overtook Argentina’s Daniel Passarella as international football’s highest-scoring defender of all time. He now has 23 goals to his name, having opened his account with a brace against San Marino.

  • Record number of wins: 128 of his 177 matches with Spain have ended in victory, another world record.

  • Defensive cornerstone: Ramos started out as a right-back, a position in which he played a crucial part in Spain’s triumphs at UEFA EURO 2008 and the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. When Ricardo Carvalho and Carles Puyol picked up injuries in 2012, Ramos switched to the centre of defence for club and country respectively. He has stayed there ever since.

Three highlights from a legendary career

The birth of tiki-taka

Denmark 1-3 Spain, Aarhus, 13 October 2007

Ramos was a key figure in the match that marked the start of Spain’s golden era. Luis Aragones’ Roja were in trouble in their EURO 2008 qualifying group and needed to beat Denmark away from home to stay in control of their own destiny. They managed to do just that in a game that is remembered for one move in particular. Joaquin began it with a short pass. Twenty-seven more passes and 75 seconds of possession football later Ramos dinked the ball into the back of the net. And so tiki-taka was born.

Spain duly qualified and went on to lift the EURO trophy in style a few months later, with Ramos an undisputed first-choice at right-back.

The biggest title of them all

Netherlands 0-1 Spain (aet), Johannesburg, 11 July 2010

Ramos was to the fore again in Spain’s crowning achievement. A starter in all seven of their matches, he spent all but a quarter of an hour of the campaign on the pitch, coming off with 15 minutes remaining against Honduras in the group phase. The defender drove his side forward at every opportunity, so much so that he completed 31 dribbles, more than any other player in the competition.

DONETSK, UKRAINE - JUNE 27: Sergio Ramos of Spain scores a penalty during the UEFA EURO 2012 semi final match between Portugal and Spain at Donbass Arena on June 27, 2012 in Donetsk, Ukraine. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Spain’s Panenka specialist

Spain 0-0 Portugal (Spain win 4-2 on pens), Donetsk, 28 June 2012

Ramos is now one of the world’s leading penalty-takers and has become deadly from the spot. That was not always the case, however. Playing in a UEFA Champions League semi-final for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich in April 2012, he blazed a penalty over the bar as his side went out. Heavily criticised for the miss, Ramos bounced back in inimitable style just a couple of months later.

Spain’s EURO 2012 semi-final against Portugal had gone to penalties and up stepped Ramos to take his side’s fourth. Keeping his cool, he chipped it Panenka-style past Rui Patricio and into the net. I wasn’t scared. I’ve always been confident,” said Ramos. La Roja reached the final and the rest is history.

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - JULY 11: Sergio Ramos celebrates victory with Vicente del Bosque head coach of Spain following the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa Final match between Netherlands and Spain at Soccer City Stadium on July 11, 2010 in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

Praise from his Spain bosses:

“Only the truly gifted achieve numbers like his. He doesn’t even get colds. He’s a rare talent and he’s out on his own.” Spain coach Luis Enrique

“Ramos has a lot of charisma and he’s a leader too.” Vicente del Bosque

“He’s a great player and a great leader. You can be a captain or a true captain, and that’s what Sergio is.” Julen Lopetegui, who coached Ramos with the national team and at Real Madrid.

“I’ve congratulated Sergio Ramos because what he’s done in equalling [Iker] Casillas’ appearances is amazing. He’s going to carry on beating records.” Former Spain coach Robert Moreno, when Ramos pulled level with Iker Casillas on 167 caps in September 2019.