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12 Apr 2018

Real Madrid: Sergio Ramos is Madrid's most important player

Real Madrid: Sergio Ramos is Madrid's most important
player

When Real's inimitable captain was suspended against Juventus, his absence proved that he is their most crucial player

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Ronaldo saves Ramos-less Madrid 

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A psychological boost for the opposition

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Another suspension could be on its way

(Photo credit: Ruben Ortega)

When Cristiano Ronaldo did what the whole world knew full well what he was about to do and fired his 97th-minute penalty into the top corner to send Real Madrid through against Juventus, the response was just as unsurprising.

"The greatest player in the history of Real Madrid", roared BT Sport's Darren Fletcher, and he was right. It was Ronaldo's 120th Champions League goal and his 447th overall for the club. 

He has surpassed Di Stéfano, Puskás, Zidane and Casillas, and is on the hunt for his third straight Champions League trophy. You couldn't begrudge him it.

Ronaldo saves Ramos-less Madrid

But him being the greatest player at the club does not necessarily mean he is the most important. 

A look at the scoreline - tied up on aggregate, extra-time looming, three minutes past the allocated three of injury time - told you it was a Ronaldo moment. But you wouldn't think he would have got the chance had Sergio Ramos been on the pitch.

Suspended after a foul on Paulo Dybala in the first leg, Ramos was forced to watch from the stands as Juventus mounted an aerial assault on Madrid's penalty area - his penalty area - and without him there to man the barricades, the walls came crashing down.

While he may not be the most elegant player to watch, Champions League final bicycle kicks aside, there aren't many defenders in the world who would relish a physical battle with Mario Mandžukić.

On Wednesday night, he was peerless. Madrid's back four wilted under the pressure of constant attacking threats from out wide and Mandžukić scored twice with his head before Keylor Navas dropped a third cross at the grateful feet of Blaise Matuidi.

A psychological boost for the opposition

Would Mandžukić have scored had Ramos been there to challenge him? 

Possibly, possibly not. But you wouldn't imagine Juventus would have been quite so keen on their crossing game had he been there to greet them with a handshake and a wink at kick-off.

Not many people can match Cristiano Ronaldo's irrepressible will to win, but Sergio Ramos is certainly one of them. 

A player who will throw himself into a perfectly executed slide tackle then spray a pass over to a counter-attacking player on the other side of the pitch before you check the replay and realise he's left an elbow in the ribs of the player he robbed, there simply isn't anybody out there like him.

He has 72 goals for Madrid and you'd be forgiven for thinking that all 72 had come in the last three minutes of crucial games, mostly against Atlético. 

Without him, Madrid just aren't quite the same. They lose the backbone, the grizzled fighting spirit, the unrelenting will to crush the dreams of opposition players and fans alike that he provides.

Another suspension could be on its way

That had been a source of comfort for Madrid fans at full-time against Juventus. Yes, they'd almost blown a huge first-leg lead, but that wasn't the real Madrid. That was Madrid without Ramos.

Now, it seems as though they may be without him for the first leg of their semi-final too, whoever that may bring them up against. 

Referee Michael Oliver spotted him by the side of the pitch during the closing minutes - a forbidden zone for suspended players and his report could, therefore, see the Spain international handed a further one-match European ban. 

Oliver's list of no-go areas may well be extended from Turin to Madrid, then, especially if his absence costs Madrid in their semi-final.

With Giorgio Chiellini gone, Ramos was the man who you could expect to shackle Mohamed Salah or to stand up to the presence of Edin Džeko or Robert Lewandowski. Whoever Madrid are drawn against, they will find encouragement in his absence just as Juventus did.

Back in contention for the second leg, you wouldn't be in any way surprised to see him rising to bludgeon an 89th-minute corner into the net despite the close attention of three opposition defenders. It's just what he does.

Madrid need their captain. Without him, that 13th European Cup might have to wait another year.

How important is Sergio Ramos to Real Madrid? Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.