MADRID (dpa) – Not since the days when Frank Beckenbauer was the imperious captain of Bayern Munich and West Germany has a defender been so popular with the fans.
Sergio Ramos was hailed as Real Madrid’s hero on Sunday, after scoring the first goal in the 2-0 defeat of San Lorenzo in the Club World Cup final in Marrakech on Saturday.
“He is the most popular player of Real Madrid nowadays, well above Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas,” commented Radio Marca on Sunday.
“Ramos is the personification of Real’s most important values: fighting spirit, courage and attitude.”
What made Ramos’ battling performance even more praiseworthy was that he had to pass a late fitness test to play, after suffering a pulled muscle in his right leg in Tuesday’s 4-0 defeat of Cruz Azul in the semi-finals – in which he also headed in the first goal.
“It was a bit of a risk for me to play today but it was an important match and I didn’t want to miss it,” said Ramos.
The goals in Marrakesh lifted his popularity to new heights. It was his name that the madridistas sung in Saturday night’s long celebrations.
AS newspaper wrote it was “a bit of a shame” that Ramos was not a candidate for the prestigious Ballon d’Or award, after being named player of the tournament in Morocco – and after scoring twice against Bayern in the Champions League then putting away Real’s late equalizer in the final against Atletico.
“Ramos has been fundamental this year for Real, just as much as Cristiano Ronaldo,” commented AS.
Ramos, 28, is negotiating a new contract with Real, and he hinted that he deserved a pay rise: “Players who are worth a lot of money reflect their value with goals.”
Another player singled out for special praise on Sunday was winger Gareth Bale, who scored Real’s second goal.
“He is a player for the big occasion,” commented Marca, after pointing out that Bale also scored in the Champions League final and also the Spanish cup final last season.
Also coming in for praise was coach Carlo Ancelotti, who has already won four major trophies in his eighteen-month reign, after bringing peace and harmony to a dressing-room that had been torn apart by Jose Mourinho.
“Ancelotti has been like a breath of fresh air, after the tempestuous reign of Mourinho,” commented radio station Cadena COPE.
“He has not created factions and divisions within the dressing-room, like his predecessor. All the players like and respect him, and his tactics are straightforward and easy to understand.”