Is Sergio Ramos More Important to Real Than Ronaldo?

Reports in England and Spain claim that Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has handed in a transfer request. According to the Guardian, Ramos met with Real CEO Jose Angel Sanchez on Wednesday morning and confirmed his intention to leave the club after 10 seasons.

This is a huge blow to Los Blancos, because the Spain international is arguably the club’s most important player after Cristiano Ronaldo. However, if you ask the club’s fans, as the Real-leaning Spanish sports daily AS did, most would prefer to sell the reigning Ballon d’Or winner to Ramos: in separate polls, a whopping 75 percent of AS readers were against the idea of selling Ramos, whereas roughly half thought the club should cash in on Ronaldo this summer. 

That may astound given Ronaldo’s goal contribution and the fact that he won the European Golden Shoe last season, but Real’s backline has been notably more porous without the 2010 World Cup winner marshalling things. Last season, during a stretch in which Ramos was sidelined with a hamstring injury, Real let in 10 goals and won just three of seven games all competitions. The Merengues also suffered their heaviest-ever loss to city rival Atletico Madrid during his absence, losing 4-0.

Ramos is strong, a good tackler, fantastic in the air, assured in possession, but he has a tendency to commit silly fouls from time to time. He’s also one of the game’s best goal-scoring defenders, managing seven goals in all competitions both last season and the season before. Crucially, he has a tendency to score big goals -- for example, it was his stoppage header that brought Real into extra-time against Atletico Madrid in the 2013-14 UEFA Champions League final, after which Los Blancos scored three goals en route to winning the coveted "Decima."

Though the 29-year-old has two years remaining on his Madrid contract, talks over a new agreement have stalled. While the club has made an improved offer to take the vice-captain’s salary to around 7.5 million euros ($8.4 million) per year, up from his current 6 million euros-per-year deal ($6.7 million), that may not be enough, as reports claim that Ramos wants close to 10 million euros ($11.2 million) per year.

But his buyout clause is said to be a whopping 128 million pounds ($201.5 million), which no club would pay. Nevertheless, Manchester United looks to be the most interested at the moment, willing to exchange goalkeeper David De Gea in some kind of deal to bring the Spain international to Old Trafford.

Neither Ramos nor Madrid have yet made any public statements about a potential move, but according to the Guardian, “their positions are now clear” -- meaning that Madrid is now willing to entertain offers for the player and might not mind selling in the right conditions. And despite United informing Real of its interest in Ramos, the reports claim that Madrid has not received any bids.

As the Guardian notes, this has become a battle played out in the press, with reports in Spain claiming that the player is fed up with President Florentino Perez and the Real culture. Real fans are already starting to call him a money-grubber -- all of which has only deepened the sense of mutual distrust.

At this point, it looks a certainty that Sergio Ramos will leave this summer. The big question for Real and coach Rafael Benitez is: can they replace one of the world’s best center-backs? And what would happen if Ronaldo also decides to go?

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