Skulduggery! Sergio Ramos' ruthlessness is what sets him apart from the rest

Sergio Ramos isn't everyone's cup of tea. Many see him as the antithesis of all that is good about sport.

Thursday, 31st May 2018, 2:00 pm
Updated Friday, 1st June 2018, 11:57 am
Real Madrids Sergio Ramos chases down, then brings down, Liverpools Mohamed Salah in the Champions League final.

An athlete who will step across the boundaries of fair play and a swine of a man who laughs in the face of the good guys who complain they never win.

The evil laughing face of every villain you’ve ever seen on screen before their inevitable downfall at the hands of our hero.

Except, this is what makes Sergio Ramos different. He’s the villain that never gets his comeuppance because he is also one of the best defenders in world football.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

He is a winner on almost unprecedented levels because of his mix of brilliance and, as St Mirren’s owner might call it, skulduggery.

What I’d like to call him is not printable on these pages, but it’s the main reason why I love him so much.

I’ve played in plenty of sides where I’ve wished they sign somebody with the same mentality has him. Utterly ruthless, and anyone who wouldn’t want him in their side is a liar.

Whether you think he meant to injure Mo Sarah is known by Ramos himself, but you’d be wrong to say he meant to injure him seriously, just enough to stop him influencing the game and this is what many people don’t understand about professional sport.

Winning may not be everything to everyone, but when performing at the pinnacle of your powers, whatever level that may be, if the devil gave you the choice, you’d choose winning over losing and suffer damnation.

Could Ramos have avoided raising an arm to Loris Karius’s head after being pushed by Virgil van Dijk?

Possibly, but why refuse a free shot? Some may see that as scandalous, an assault that may cause great damage to the recipient, but weighing up the risks of that happening against the gain a psychological edge that might unnerve the Liverpool keeper it’s a no brainer to the likes of Ramos.

And this is the thing. When tackle an opponent with the intent of contact, you want to hurt them just enough to dent their performance either psychologically or physically.

If I hit you hard enough so that it alters your decision-making in a similar situation in the future, whether that’s for you to think twice about the challenge or it incites you to be overly aggressive so as to incur punishment from the officials, then its a win for me.

Or better still, if an injury forces you to leave the field and you’re a threat to my sides chances of winner, as Salah was to Ramos, then that’s an added bonus.

And don’t think every team-mate, coach and fan of Real Madrid didn’t want to high-five Ramos when they saw Salah in tears.

Not only were they watching the Egyptian leave the field, they also saw their chances of success rise too.

Of course, the dark arts are dying, but the likes of Ramos and his former teammate Pepe show that allied with their footballing brilliance, they can make the difference between winning and losing.

Not that Ramos’ antics were the sole reason for Real’s victory, Gareth Bale and Loris Karius can both lay claim to that, but his contribution, meant or not, was still great.

I’ll be honest, my love for Ramos goes beyond his desire to win at all costs.

I have a confession to make; I liked kicking people. I say people, I don’t mean random strangers. I loved the physical contact part of the game.

There might be something perverse about it, but there was nothing better than playing in the rain and launching in to a tackle or sliding out to grab the ball at someone’s feet and taking everything; the man, the ball, the lot.

Even when I was on the receiving end of a challenge like that, as you landed flat on the floor, still sliding away from your opponent, who by this time is running away from you having stolen the ball, I felt like getting up and applauding them in congratulation.

In your head there’s an acknowledgment “You got me. Fair play to you.” as you rub whatever part of you that is now developing inflammation and in need of an ice pack after training.

For those of us who played the game professionally, football lies somewhere between being a game and a matter of life and death, but it’s far closer to the latter.

There’s a motivational pep talk that I’ve heard in many dressing rooms and as extreme as it sounds, it bears a great deal of truth.

In situations where you find your team behind at half-time, a coach will say “These lot are trying to take your livelihood off you.

“They’re trying to take money out of your pockets. They want to take the food out of your kids’ mouths. Are going to let them?” and it can prove effective.

Some fans may not see it in those terms, but they should. What would you do to protect your career, your livelihood, your family’s standard of living?

I’m not advocating violence, but you’d do as much as you possibly can, wouldn’t you?

Players do overstep the the boundaries of fair play but not always because of arrogance or because they’re inherently bad people, it’s a to ensure they win a game, that in turn leads to a new contract, that leads them to being able to provide for their families.

Sergio Ramos might not have been motivated by money and his family’s well-being may not have been under threat, but footballing immorality beckoned for him. How far would you go to secure that?