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Sergio Ramos: Form, ego and Real Madrid's demise

COMMENT: Sergio Ramos... in midfield? If you need to know where its gone wrong for Real Madrid this year, just examine Ramos' performance at Juventus.

Despite young midfielders Lucas Silva and Asier Illarramendi available, Real coach Carlo Ancelotti stuck with Ramos and was rewarded with a performance that almost descended into farce.

That first long, raking pass to no-one should've been a warning. The second? Well, after that he should've kept it in his locker. But he's no Kurt Zouma. Instead, Ramos kept at it - and Real kept losing possession.

For the return-leg, if Ancelotti is to persist with Ramos in midfield, he'd do well to have him study Zouma's performances for Chelsea against PSG and Manchester United. At 20, Zouma knows his strengths - and his limitations - and when pressed into midfield by Jose Mourinho, did not attempt anything above his station.

Can Ramos' ego allow him to do the same?

It's clear Ancelotti didn't trust Lucas nor Illarramendi to handle the demands of a Champions League semifinal. But is that all that was behind his decision to play Ramos in midfield?

Could Real, going into the biggest game of their season, have handled the fallout from Ancelotti benching the 29 year-old?

As they've stumbled along in the final stretch of the season, the one positive for Ancelotti has been the new centre-half pairing of Pepe and Raphael Varane. It's been Pepe who has held Real's defence together this season, playing some of the best football of his career.

And the emergence of Varane has forced Ancelotti into a rethink of his back four.

After all the problems that came with the axing of Iker Casillas, did Ancelotti swerve the same backlash last week by starting Ramos in Turin? Illarramendi and Lucas are no mugs. The former a Spain international. The latter, a title winner with Cruzeiro. Yet, Ancelotti went with a 29 year-old centre-half, who until this past fortnight, hadn't played in midfield "for eight years".

And all this is occurring while Ramos and Real clash over his pay status.

Ramos still has two years to run on his current deal, but is demanding €10 million-a-year - plus bonuses - to make him the second highest paid at Real behind Cristiano Ronaldo. The World Cup winner believes he deserves it, for his leadership role within the squad and what he has given during a decade of service.

But Real management think otherwise and are refusing to go higher than €7 million-a-year.

It's no secret that after La Decima, Ramos has been frustrated by the way he's been treated. Since Lisbon, he has seen teammates Raphael Varane, Karim Benzema and Luka Modric handed pay-rises, while James Rodriguez and Toni Kroos have arrived on bigger contracts.

Under appreciated by the board and pushed out of his natural position by Varane, Ramos could find himself at a career crossroads this summer.

And given his display in Turin, maybe he needs to do with those contract demands what he should do with his passing game - and scale it all down.


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Chris Beattie
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Chris Beattie

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