One word neatly sums up Sergio Ramos and that word is presence.
The legendary Spaniard's record speaks for itself. 24 trophies for club and country including the biggest prizes in the sport, 26 dismissals for Real Madrid and almost a century of goals for Los Blancos. That's quite something.
However, for all of his accolades, there's been an undercurrent of dissatisfaction around the Spaniard's questionable disciplinary record down the years. Maybe he does have a few cases to answer to, given that he's received more red cards than any other player in Real Madrid & LaLiga history. 26 dismissals for Los Blancos is a poor record but that number doesn't account for the numerous occasions where Ramos took one for the team.
Part of that number is also down to his longevity and continued presence in the team for a decade and a half. Logic dictates that if a footballer, especially a defender, plays a vast amount of football matches, they're bound to pick up more bookings and dismissals than the average player. And that's certainly the case with Ramos.
Love him or hate him, it's hard to look at his trophy collection and not marvel at the achievements of a player who has scored crucial goals at clutch moments in clashes for club and country.
Ramos is capable of the good, the bad and the ugly on a football pitch but one thing is certain; opponents know about him when he's in their presence. In the third minute of stoppage time of the 2014 Champions League final, it was Ramos who snatched an equalizer from the jaws of defeat to take Real's contest with city rivals Atletico to extra time, and they would go on to win the fabled La Decima that night. Without Ramos, perhaps the wait would have gone on a few more years.
In 2012, Ramos infamously sent his penalty into orbit as Real was eliminated by Bayern Munich in a shootout but two years later he would get his revenge, bagging a brace against the same opponents in the 2014 semifinal. The rest, as they say, is history, as Los Blancos went on to win their tenth European Cup just a month later. As you know, Ramos was a pivotal figure on that night. In the 2018 Champions League showpiece, a tackle on Liverpool superstar Mohamed Salah dislocated the Egyptian's shoulder and that deprived Jurgen Klopp of his key attacker for the majority of the final. Ramos has always been a man who got involved in the dark arts of the game and this was yet another example. It was also a further reminder that Ramos is always a central figure, especially on the grandest stages, and he'll do what needs to be done to end up on the winning side.
Throughout his 14-year Real Madrid career, and counting, the Spanish skipper has gotten under the skin of his opponents to the point that he has become a villain in many of their stories. But ask any of his teammates and they'll say that Ramos is the perfect player to have by their side when the going gets tough.
Ramos is a born winner and leader whose presence alone has unsettled opponents for as long as he has been a professional footballer. Happy 34th birthday to a modern-day great.