Sergio Ramos' relationship with Mourinho is reportedly stretching to breaking point.
Relations with Jose Mourinho are said to be strained, and Ramos’ decision to wear Mesut Ozil’s shirt underneath his own—after the German was substituted earlier this month—only added fuel to that fire.
However, Ramos’ relationship with the club goes back further than Mourinho, and any decision about his future will not simply be made on the back of deteriorating managerial relations.
It seems there are three things that will keep him at the Bernabeu, which are outlined over the following pages.
The fans' love of Ramos is well-documented.
This isn’t to suggest that the power of the fans is enough to keep him in Madrid; more that the pressure on the club would be overwhelmingly negative if he were allowed to walk.
Ramos is in his eighth year at Real, having arrived from Sevilla as a 19-year-old in 2005. He has been a mainstay of the defence, growing into one of the best defenders in the world in the process.
He is adored by the fans at Real, as if he was a product of their own youth system and has never played for any other team. There may be more to the Mourinho-Ramos relationship than either is letting on, but Mourinho will know that he is not bigger than Real Madrid.
Even without Real’s inauspicious start to the season, Mourinho still hasn’t won over the fans and media in the same manner as in Portugal and England. Any decision to sell Ramos would be scrutinised and criticized more heavily than anything he has done in his career.
Mourinho’s benching of Ramos for the UEFA Champions League clash with Manchester City brought attention to the player-manager relationship, with Mourinho’s justification that it was for football reasons falling flat.
The Spanish media do not make it easy on the people coaching their football teams. Mourinho is a divisive man anyway, so not everyone takes to him. However, the one thing that no one has been able to deny is that he gets results.
Madrid won the league title last year, so a lot of things were forgotten. Now, with the poor start to this year and the reaction to some of the results, it suggests the differences were just put to one side in order to celebrate the title.
Underlying all the rumours and speculation about unity behind the scenes is the supporters’ dedication to the team. If Ramos leaves, it will be seen that he was forced out, and the pendulum will swing back to Mourinho.
It would be detrimental to Mourinho's plans if he was to sell Ramos.
Even without being a football fan, it’s a simple enough question, albeit one that comes in two parts:
- If one of the biggest teams in the world has one of the best defenders in the world, should they sell him?
- If they do sell him, who is likely to buy him?
If you answered “no” and “a rival team,” give yourself one or two pats on the back, depending on how generous you’re feeling.
It just doesn’t make any sense to sell Ramos when any player that’s brought in to replace him is likely to be inferior at that position. Real aren’t exactly known as a selling club, so any decision they make to sell one of their players will be explicitly on their terms.
Ramos isn’t a habitual underperformer, so there are no grounds to sell him on the back of deteriorating form. He is still only 26, so there are no arguments to be made that he is past his best and the team is better off looking to the future.
If Ramos was to leave the club, it would be because his situation, to quote John Terry, had been made untenable at Madrid. This wouldn’t be the first time something like this happened in football, but when that option is considered, a further danger arises for Real.
Assuming that Real would never sell him to Barcelona—and Ramos’ well-publicised loyalty to the Bernabeu would also seemingly prohibit it—that leaves the English teams as potential destinations.
While not in direct competition with Real in Spain, the football world is a lot smaller these days, so perennial Champions League competitors are treated as rivals in a similar manner to teams from the domestic league..
Selling to one of these teams would be to offer them an advantage that could feasibly be the difference in a Champions League campaign. It’s poor business, whichever way it’s spun, and Madrid aren’t in the business of being poor.
This isn't the first time that Ramos has been linked with a move away from the Bernabeu.
Although Madrid are doing everything they can to play down rumours of Ramos’ departure, it seems that the best way to effectively calm both the supporters and the media would be to point them in the direction of the past.
In January 2011, ESPN.com reported that Ramos could be on his way out of Madrid after a clash with Cristiano Ronaldo. Madrid is a pressure-cooker environment, and every movement of the players is intensely pored over to find an angle.
Nothing came of the Ramos-Ronaldo fight—Ramos was then seen consoling Ronaldo after Portugal exited Euro 2012 to Spain—and nothing will come of the Ramos-Mourinho one, either.
Disagreements between players and managers are often the result of competitiveness, brought on by a desire to succeed. In many ways, this relationship needs conflict in order to thrive.
If a player isn’t constantly fighting for his place in the team, complacency often sets in. While no one can accuse Ramos of complacency, this saga may be entirely Mourinho’s doing in an effort to engineer further effort from his players.
Dropping Ramos for such an important game as the one against Manchester City was incredibly risky; if Madrid had lost the game—which they almost did—then the coach would’ve been forced to explain his why his tactical decisions were so obviously wrong.
However, the team prevailed and the Ramos incident sent out a message to the rest of the team that no one has a guaranteed starting place.
Mourinho had previously intimated that the team was too satisfied with themselves after winning La Liga and that it had affected their start to the season, so this would certainly be an effective way of shaking them up.
It’s impossible to make an accurate judgement of a player’s relationship with his manager without insider access to the club, but that is only intensified when the manager is Jose Mourinho.
For this reason, as well as the two that preceded it, don’t expect Sergio Ramos to be anywhere but Madrid for a while.