World Cup 2018: Spain’s star player Sergio RamosJune 3, 2018
\When Julen Lopetegui named his final 23-man squad for the World Cup, there was an excitement that they could reclaim the title they won eight years ago.
Filled with a mixture of experience and youth, it is a side that has the potential to do great things this summer.
While there were some notable exclusions, it is hard to argue that the Spanish coach has not covered every basis in his search for the perfect squad.
Many world-class Spaniards
There is talent across every inch of the pitch, with a world-class goalkeeper in David de Gea at the back, while midfield maestros Isco, David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets will operate in tandem in the middle.
Diego Costa, a striker that either draws cheers or boos from the crowd, will be the main attacking threat, alongside Spain’s top goalscorer in LaLiga from last season, Iago Aspas.
Yet, the star player in the squad is another that you either love or hate, and it is the captain, Sergio Ramos.
The 32-year-old may have a history of poor discipline and leaving players in agony on the pitch, but there is no question of his talent, incredible leadership skills and ever-growing trophy cabinet.
Real Madrid legend
Ramos has spent the 13 years at the Santiago Bernabeu, joining from boyhood club Sevilla, winning 19 trophies in the process, including the recent Champions League title, his third in row and fourth in total.
He was once a marauding right-back but found his positioning and tactical awareness were better suited to playing in central defence.
And how Real Madrid have been the main beneficiaries of that change. He has often left opponents on the floor in pain after a hefty challenge and has seen red one, two or 24 times too many in his career.
But there is no question of his ability to intercept, provide a goal-saving tackle or organise his team, having been Real Madrid captain since 2015, following the departure of goalkeeping legend Iker Casillas.
Then there are the goals. In another life, Ramos could have been a half-decent striker, but supreme when it comes to nodding in set-pieces.
The defender has netted 73 goals for Real Madrid, putting him 29th on Real Madrid’s all-time top scorers, ahead of Los Blancos legends Roberto Carlos, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Luis Figo and Jorge Valdano.
It is not just the amount, but also the timing of his strikes that have seen Ramos earn praise for his achievements further up the field.
Deep into injury time in the Champions League final against Atletico Madrid in 2014, the captain powered in a header from a corner kick to equalise to take the match to extra time, which Real Madrid ended up winning 4-1.
Two years later, another big European final against their local rivals, Ramos netted early on, before Los Blancos were victorious on penalties, with the defender scoring his side’s penultimate kick.
Plenty of international honours
For Spain, he is just as accomplished and commanding as for his club. After winning the European Under-19 Championship in 2004, the Spaniard was called up to the senior squad a year later at the age of 19.
Ramos was then called up to the Spain squad that won Euro 2008 and was once again victorious at the 2010 World Cup and European Championships six years ago.
Captain Ramos to lead Spain to victory?
While he has not been as prolific in scoring goals (13) for La Roja, the 32-year-old has amassed 151 caps and will surely surpass record holder Iker Casillas, who sits just 16 ahead.
His defensive skill and quick mobility to chase attackers and prevent them from scoring has made him one of the best in the world.
Spain will need him to be at his best if they are to win, but he will also be eager to succeed, as it will likely be his final World Cup, as the 32-year-old nears the twilight of his distinguished career.
Will the Real Madrid enforcer make it two World Cup titles?