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Real need Ramos’ legs, not his sharp tongue

He seems too eager to pick a fight, even as club struggle in La Liga and Europe

More than an hour after the final whistle had sounded on Real Madrid's 3-0 humiliation by Eibar last Saturday, Sergio Ramos began to let rip.

Deep in the belly of the tiny 7,083-capacity Ipurua Stadium, Ramos said his side's attitude had been off, their intensity lacking.

GROUP G
AS ROMA REAL MADRID

"When you don't match your opponents, you become a vulgar team," he said.

It was not the result Real wanted before they travel to Roma in the Champions League tomorrow morning (Singapore time), when the winners are likely to go through top of Group G.

Then Ramos moved onto the doping allegations published on Friday by German magazine Der Spiegel.

The most damaging among them claimed Ramos tested positive for dexamethasone after the 2017 Champions League final and failed to declare it, as is required according to World Anti-Doping Authority regulations.

Responding for the first time, Ramos said: "You can tell a lie many times over but it is still a lie.

"These types of people try to stain my reputation and my professional career."

The issue may have been exceptional, but the sharpness of tongue and apparent readiness for confrontation has become a vivid part of Ramos' football persona.

In September, Antoine Griezmann was in the firing line when Ramos used a Champions League press conference to slam the Frenchman's pinings for the Ballon d'Or.

"Ignorance is bold," Ramos said, poker-faced.

More recently, he turned Antonio Conte from favourite to no-hoper in the running to replace Julen Lopetegui as Real coach.

"Respect is earned, not imposed," Ramos said, supposedly a dig at Conte, a renowned disciplinarian.

Ramos has long been a colossus for Real and, over the past decade, arguably the finest central defender in the world.

The concern, however, is that this season, for club and country, he has been nowhere close to those standards.

His increasingly error-ridden partnership with Raphael Varane at the back became as much a problem for Lopetegui as a lack of firepower up front.

Sevilla and Barcelona both took advantage, to the tune of eight goals between them.

England capitalised too, winning 3-2 in Seville, and then Croatia did, by the same scoreline in Zagreb.

While Ramos is far from solely culpable, some are beginning to wonder if he has become too eager to pick a fight.

His focus might have wavered.

Ramos admitted last Saturday he had been aware for months of the doping allegations and it is possible angst has taken its toll.

It is also true the 32-year-old has often underperformed at this stage of the season, only to become faultless around the time the trophies are handed out in May.

With a new coach, the Champions League group stage getting tight and six points to make up in La Liga, Real could do with that upswing to come early.

They need Ramos now more than ever, not the brawler or the bravado, but the player. - AFP