We have Sergio Ramos taking his shirt off for Men’s Health (España), Iker Casillas in a tie for ABC’s XL Semanal and Mrs. Xabi Alonso in Vogue España (though only a brief appearance, nothing like the previous one, which made all of us hate our lives).
Sergio Ramos grew up on us, all of a sudden. During the past decade, he hasn’t only been a constant presence on the field, but he’s also been on the front page of newspapers, he’s been the lead story on news programs, he’s been the subject of passionate radio debates and he’s filled many, many pages in tabloid magazines. And we have him here… the Tarzan of Camas. The only Spanish footballer to join the club during Florentino Pérez’s first term as president. And yes, the Real Madrid player with the most number of red cards, the one who dropped the Copa del Rey during the celebration, the one who missed the decisive penalty against Bayern… But he’s also a legendary footballer with two Eurocopas and one World Cup. The one who took a penalty Panenka style. One of the best centerbacks in the world. He’s on the verge of playing his 100th game with La Roja and he also manages to attract the prettiest girls.
He arrives driving a spectacular white sports car, and holds out his hand a bit shyly, almost without looking me in the eyes, and I’m surprised to find out that Sergio Ramos isn’t like Sergio Ramos at all. Or at least the Sergio Ramos we were expecting. It’s clear that he has learned – we only need three polite sentences from him to see it – that his words can easily be twisted. He’s mature, reserved and cautious. He only lets himself be open once during the entire interview, which allows us to see that Sergio who can explode into laughter in the locker room of La Roja. It’s a fleeting moment that you have to be ready to capture. While the team prepares the lights for the shoot, Ramos flips through the issues of Men’s Health that are on the table, and he studies the one with Iker Casillas. “How many pages and how many wardrobe changes did you make Iker go through? No?” He says this to the stylist, who nods. “Not very much looked good on him, because sometimes he wears these clothes…” he laughs.
He’s mature but with a childlike side. He’s reserved but generous with his time. He’s cautious but extraordinarily forward with his responses. That’s Sergio Ramos.
The people who really know you say you’re nicer than you are arrogant, although it appears to be the reverse…
It could be like that. Perhaps on the field I give off the image of the typical arrogant Sevillan… but that’s not the reality. Those who really know me know that I’m a regular person who hasn’t forgotten where I came from and who loves my family. I never get tired of repeating that people should get to know someone before they judge them.
You appear to be very mature…
Well, I’m happy that you noticed that, because it’s a process that has taken time. When you’re young, you make many mistakes, and these errors allow you to learn. In this sense, I don’t believe I’ve done badly. Being in Real Madrid helps, of course. I’m required to mature, in part due to the implications and repercussion that comes from playing for the biggest club in the world.
Football has also taught you a lot about life.
Many things. Both good and bad, although perhaps you learn more from the bad lessons… I can assure you that maturity and experience taught me that I have to surround myself with my people, to feel good about myself, and to forget about the bad moments. I work hard, I rest well, I eat well, and therefore my conscience is clear. Right now, I don’t pay attention to what others say, neither the criticism nor the praise. Every night, I sleep well and I get up with the same passion that I’ve had since I was a kid.
Like when you were called Schuster because you were blond and two trees served as the goal?
¡Uf! Yes, yes! It doesn’t seem that long ago since I played football with my friends in the plaza of my hometown…
Were any of them better than you?
Of course! There were many.
But none of them has won a World Cup, or has become an elite footballer…
Hombre, it’s clear that luck plays a very important role, although it’s also true that I’ve known what I wanted from the time I was small. I went from school to football practice and from football practice to school, that was it for me. My friends went out to party, and I had to say at home because the next day I had to train… But it’s okay, because now I can say it was all worth it.
What motivates you to keep fighting?
Well, I believe that in life, you have to be ambitious, above all other things. In addition, football doesn’t let you live off of the past. My personal goal is to continue learning and surpassing myself with each day. I’m convinced that this is the mentality that will bring success. Each morning, I wake up with a desire to win more titles and to continue growing as a person.
That has helped you to get to this moment, your best one, no?
Yes. It’s true. I’m in a great moment of my life, a very sweet one, on both the personal and professional levels. I hope it will last a long time.
I don’t know if the starting point of this stage was the Panenka style penalty…
Yes, yes! Look! I’m getting goosebumps and everything! It was one of the most important moments of my life. I was very nervous, because if the goalkeeper stopped it, things would get quite complicated, because I had already missed a penalty… (laughs).
And you would have been severely criticized for that, just like you were after the one against Bayern…
Of course. As a professional, you’re exposed to that, and you have to live with not only praise, but also with criticism. But when all you’re hearing is lies… It’s true that it had been a thorn in my side since that Champions League game. In the end, I kicked it poorly, the ball went up… and it went in. It was really something that I wanted, you know? It wasn’t to get revenge on anyone, but rather something for myself. To show myself that in key moments, I have to be calmer than everyone else.
Perhaps the problem is that sometimes one image gets stuck in one’s head… an inopportune elbow, a failed penalty, a dropped cup…
I don’t see it as anything personal. I know that we’re public figures, that we’re exposed to this, and well, when there’s nothing else to talk about, nothing that will sell papers, you have to dig something up, no? And something about me? Well… in the end, it makes me more popular.
I don’t know which is worse, the sports papers or the tabloids.
Hombre… I would say that those two worlds are very similar. But it’s their job. We live with that, we respect it, but we don’t like it when there are lies, and that happens a lot. It upsets me, because I’ve always kept my private life apart. When I’m in a stable and serious relationship, that doesn’t matter to me, but I don’t like to speak about my private life, I don’t like to be followed, I don’t like it…
Do you ever feel like saying, “listen, the only thing I want to do is play football…”?
Yes, many times. In the end, what hurts the most is when you’re known or recognized more for your private life than for your profession. That’s the thing I have the hardest time dealing with. Not being a protagonist for being who I am: Sergio Ramos, Real Madrid and Spain footballer, period. Then, as a person, I only want those whom I believe can contribute something to my life, whether it’s a family member or friend, to know me.
Out of all the things that have been said about you, what has bothered you the most?
I never pay attention to what’s said… in the end, everyone will get what they deserve, and I have a clear conscience. Many things have been said about me that have been proven to be lies. As long as I can keep my personal life separate, I don’t care what’s said about me.
And they’ll leave you alone?
Well… they don’t leave me alone a lot, to tell you the truth. I would be lying if I said that they leave me alone. But I’m okay with it. I know who I am and I have to live with that. I hope to have a much more tranquil life when I’m no longer anybody.
And will you have a family?
I hope so! I hope that in the future I will have many kids, because I would love to be a father. The apple of my eye is my niece Daniela, it’s like she’s mine. When she comes, I forget about everything else. I go to play with her, or do whatever she wants. If it’s dolls, then it’s dolls. I’m happy to do that.
It’s not easy to imagine the second captain of Real Madrid surrounded by Barbies…
There’s time for everything (laughs).
And speaking of your responsibilities in the club, is a leader born or made?
A leader is born, but after that, one has to end up winning. Leadership comes with the time, experience and credibility that you get from overcoming difficult situations which show whether you have the ability to lead or not. It is possible that I could play this role, for the way that I am. But, you know, it’s better for others to opine than for me to answer about myself.
You’ve spent more than a decade working with great leaders. What did you learn from Caparrós?
I have so much affection for Joaquín… He’s the one that promoted me from the cantera of Sevilla when no one knew my name… He has character. He doesn’t care what your name is. If you have to sit on the bench, then you’ll sit on the bench.
Speaking of character, there’s Mourinho…
You learn from Mourinho every day, from his character, from his way of being… you learn about the obsession to improve with each day, to demand the maximum out of yourself in each training session. He tries to instill in us the concept of the maximum sacrifice, the maximum work so that later on our performance will be the maximum as well.
How about Vicente del Bosque? What have you learned?
He’s a fantastic person. I don’t think there’s anyone in this world who has anything bad to say about Vicente. That’s how you should be. That’s his lesson.
And speaking of La Roja, how is the relationship between the Barça and Madrid players?
I only have good things to say, despite everything that has happened and everything that was said. I’ve always given my opinion because it’s what I think, and if not, I won’t say it and I would remain silent… In the end, we’re professionals. We’re not stupid. With the national team that we have, with all its potential, it would be a pity to throw all of that away for the differences between Barça and Madrid. In the end, we’re obligated to understand each other for the good of the group.
And if we ask your teammates who is the last one to leave the locker room after the training sessions?
Well, if you want, I’ll ask, but I know the answer: I’m always the last one (laughs).
Why is that?
Well… perhaps it’s because I’m a bit more concerned about my appearance than the others… but everyone is like that, no? In the end, people, especially young people, like to take care of themselves.
And do you take care of yourself as much as it appears?
Hombre, there’s nothing else I can do. On a professional level, I have to complete all my obligations. An elite athlete has to be strict about three things: rest, food and training. And that’s what we’re like. You can skip a day once in a while, it’s true, because at this age it doesn’t matter, but not more than that… we’re not robots.
In addition to training with your team, do you work out in the gym?
Sometimes, sometimes, but I don’t really like free weights, to tell you the truth. I’m not the type of kill myself working out in the gym. What I do do are my sit-ups and my push ups.
And you also play other sports.
Well… I like a lot of them, but I can’t practice most of them. Due to my profession, I can’t go horseback riding, I can’t race a motorcycle, I can’t go snowboarding… but anyway… there are things that I have to renounce at the moment. In the future, I’ll have time to enjoy them.
We haven’t spoken about the change in your appearance yet.
(Laughs) Well… it was a crazy urge that I got before the Eurocopa. Since I had been lucky enough to win that and a World Cup with long hair, I thought that it could be the start of a new cycle, since I was going to play as a centerback, and so one day I got the urge… I told my brother and he didn’t get it, but my mother and my father told me, “do what you think is right…” And here we are. The truth is that it’s been received quite well. I’m happy with the change. I had wanted to do something different.
It’s clear that you also pay a lot of attention to your clothes, and in this sense, your look has become more refined.
Well yes. I’ve always liked fashion. In addition, my sister dresses very well, and we go shopping whenever she’s in Madrid and she spends the afternoon telling me things like “I like this, this will look good on you, not this…” I like to be in fashion, but on my terms. I believe everyone should have their own personal style.
And do you dress for yourself or for the women?
I dress for myself and if they like it, perfect. And if not… well… it’s not for the men or for the women.
Speaking of women, are you still crazy about Sandra Bullock?
(Laughs) Hombre, that’s old news, but I don’t know why each time I’ve been asked to name a woman, I’ve named her. I’ve always liked her as an actress. Today I might name a more current actress, but I’m not going to say who, I don’t want it to be misinterpreted…
Sergio, when someone has everything that you have – money, success, youth, a fantastic physique, a full personal life – does he ever look in the mirror and think, “how lucky is my life?”?
The truth is that I don’t look at myself in the mirror often, but when someone thinks that, they have a problem. I don’t think you need to have this type of thought. I’m privileged and I know it, and I enjoy it every day, but I’ve never forgotten about the hard work it took to get here nor where I came from.
But you’ve definitely had some “olé tú” moments, no?
(Laughs) My grandmother, may she rest in peace, was good for that, since she always had good things to say about me. I don’t like to compliment myself, that’s what others are for. Since I’m criticized so often, I should be flattered once in a while…
The pictures are from the web site of Edu García (the photographer), you can find the making of video here and below are the pages featuring Sergio Ramos from the magazine. Sorry for the delay in writing about this fantastic magazine appearance, but I wanted to have good quality scans to share first, since the taking a photograph of the print magazine never turns out well.
Also making an appearance on a magazine cover was Iker Casillas, although he had to share the cover of XL Semanal with Xavi, as they were honored for winning the Príncipe de Asturias award for sports.
Inside, Xavi says of Iker, “he’s an amazing guy, humble, a great professional, he’s agreeable, he makes you feel good…and he’s also very stubborn, but that can also be a virtue. We’re like a married couple, once in a while there are discussions and after that, everything is forgotten.” Iker responds, “we’ve been friends since we were 16! He’s a noble person, loyal to his values and his ideas.” When asked to name a defect, he thinks and says, “Xavi’s only defect is that he gets upset easily, especially when it has to do with Barça.”
We also get a few Iker “facts,” although none of them told me anything about Iker that I didn’t already know.
ONE. His father was sent to work in País Vasco when his mother was pregnant. Although he was born in Madrid, he was called Iker due to the family’s time in Euskadi. TWO. He’s the only goalkeeper to be chosen as the best in the world for four consecutive years by the IFFHS. He’s the only footballer in history to have won 100 games with his national team. THREE. His main addiction is card games. He just won the championship along with his cousin at his favorite restaurant in Boadilla (El Acebo). FOUR. He’s known to play Manolo Escobar songs, although he also likes El Canto del Loco and Amaral. FIVE. He has a lifelong contract with Real Madrid, which is automatically renewed whenever he plays at least 30 games a season.
And Nagore Aranburu turned up in the pages of Vogue, as she participated in Fashion Night Out two months ago, wearing a Pucci dress (she also wore a Hervé Léger dress).