After 16 years, 671 games, 101 goals and 22 trophies, the legend that is Sergio Ramos will no longer be wearing the white of Real Madrid.
For younger fans, the prospect of a Real Madrid line up that doesn’t include Ramos is almost impossible to imagine.
Yet when the 2021/22 La Liga season kicks off, it will do so without the legendary defender who, for many, represented the spirit of the club.
It would not be like Ramos to fade quietly into the background, of course. Speculation has been rife about his next destination.
Even at the age of 35, he remains a prized asset and football punters have been eagerly trying to anticipate whether he will move to PSG, Bayern Munich, Manchester City or another club of similar stature.
For example, Mr Green is a casino online that offers sports betting, where speculation over Ramos’ destination has been having a big impact on the football odds.
The history of Ramos and Real Madrid goes back to 2005, when he arrived from Sevilla as a brash teenage prodigy who was determined to make his mark from the start.
Whereas some young players might have been overawed to walk into a dressing room full of legends, including Zinedine Zidane (currently in his second spell as Real manager), Ronaldo, Robinho, David Beckham and Raul, Ramos was not fazed, demanding attention from the start.
His transfer fee of €27 million, which was a record for a defender, might also have weighed him down, but he shrugged it off with ease.
In fact, he demanded to be given the iconic number four shirt, publicly stating his desire to become known as the next Fernando Hierro.
At that time, it seemed like a foolhardy and unrealistic claim, but now, 16 years on, Ramos has proved his point.
Ramos may be one of the most respected defenders in world football, but from the start, he had to fight for dominance – sometimes literally.
From the onset, he was seen as a potential liability and a hot head, and to an extent, that is backed up by the stats, which show he has earned more yellow and red cards than any other player in La Liga history.
It wasn’t just his temper that got him into trouble: up against the genius of the likes of Lionel Messi and Ronaldinho, he was sometimes made to look foolish in those early years, but it never seemed to dent his confidence or determination.
As the years went by and Ramos began to collect a fine haul of winner’s medals, he also began to mature.
He grew from that hot-headed but talented youngster into one of Europe’s best central defenders, and just as importantly, an elite leader.
Not only was he the rock at the back, he was also the beating heart of the Real team, at his best in the most critical games.
He also showed a remarkable ability to grow and improve. With so much money in the game, it is a sad fact that many young talents in the modern era don’t have the incentive to continue to develop their abilities.
That was never the case with Ramos. At the age of 28, as a long established leader and top European defender, he had yet to feature in a Champions League final.
Four years later, he had amassed four European titles, setting a record for a club captain.
In fact, if there is one moment that sums up Ramos’ impact, his leadership, his ability to score vital goals and his utter determination, it is his contribution to the 2014 Champions League final.
Real were trailing 1-0 to bitter rivals Atletico Madrid, and the game was approaching the third minute of injury time when Ramos rose above the Atletico defenders and headed in the equalizer, setting up extra time and enabling Gareth Bale, Marcelo and Ronaldo to seal the glory.
Ramos led from the front as Real’s captain. He was the first to make a last-ditch tackle or get up for a set piece, and he overcame every challenge he faced, sometimes dragging his team to victory.
In many ways, he also represented the character of the club and the city: imperfect, sometimes wild, often unpredictable, but always compelling and competitive.
His departure, at the end of his contract, has not come with the big fanfare that he deserved, but Real fans will never forget their leader, their hero, who may yet be able to write one more thrilling chapter of what has been an extraordinary career.