He took two steps forward from the penalty box and kicked the ball to the far left side of the post. Athletico Bilbao’s goalkeeper, Unai Simon stretched full length toward the ball, but it was too fast for him. The net was already shaking by the touch of the ball and Sergio Ramos was celebrating with his team mates by the time the goalkeeper landed.
That was his 22nd consecutive goal from the penalty spot for the club and his tenth in the current domestic league season, a feat not common among defenders. The goal ensured Real Madrid went four points clear at the league table.
Three seasons ago, it would have been Cristiano Ronaldo taking the shots and converting the penalties. But the Portuguese joined the Old Lady in Turin, leaving a big vacuum that Karim Benzima, Real Madrid’s no 9, not Ramos, was expected to fill.
But in a twisting turn of events, Ramos has stepped up to fill the vacuum that is outside his job description as a center back.
At the resumption of the Spanish La Liga in June, Real Madrid was trailing Barcelona by two-points with 11 games left. The last time Real Madrid lifted the Spanish League trophy was in 2017, following Barcelona’s dominance that has kept them at bay. That reinforces the zeal for the Spanish giants to be crowned champions of the 2019/20 season, and fortunately, a mishap in the fortune of the Catalans turned the table, handing the lead to Madrid.
Evidently, Ramos’ role in Madrid’s move to the top has been spectacular. On June 24, his 25 yards free kick goal against Mallorca ensured a 2-0 victory that moved the Galaticos to the top of the table. While he’s scoring the winners, he’s also making sure he stops his opponents from scoring, a leadership trait that has inspired Real Madrid to win in oddest times.
In the 2014 uefa champions league final against Atletico Madrid, it was Ramos’ late header that put his team back in the game which they eventually won 4-1 in the extra time to be crowned European champions.
But it has not been all rosy for the Andalusian who started his football career at Sevilla. There have been a lot of controversies trailing Ramos, capped by his 26 career red cards. Many have described him as a bully in the field who uses oppressive tackles to achieve wining.
A remarkable event was the 2018 Champions League final against Liverpool, where Ramos dragged Liverpool’s Mohammed Salah to ground, dislocating his shoulder, which resulted in his ouster from the match. His action was labeled cynical and was believed to be the only reason Liverpool didn’t win.
While the Real Madrid captain has amassed a lot of haters following his perceived cynicism in the field of play, the 34 years old has shrugged it off to add more records to his name. Ramos has more La Liga goals (71) in his career than Zinedine Zidane (37), Xavi Hernandes (58), Andres Iniesta (35), Luis Figo (68), Ronaldinho (70) and Neymar (68). To top the 21 major honors he has won in his career including the world cup.
His 12 goals tally so far this season has made him the second top goalscorer for Real Madrid, and put him ahead of forwards like Roberto Firmino, Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette and Diego Costa, all are below 10 goals. Though it is a feat that will make many forwards proud, Ramos seems unmoved by the numbers.
“The only thing I think about is the importance of these three points. It is in moments of maximum tension that I feel most comfortable and I think I am the perfect person to assume this responsibility… personal statistics are secondary, what I want is to help the team and win the league. This is the most important thing, if I wanted personal reward I would have devoted myself to tennis,” he said.
Anticlimactically, Real Madrid has found someone to look up to in the absence of Ronaldo, a winner, a leader, a formidable center-back leading forwards in goal affairs.