Sergio snubbed: Were Spain right to leave Ramos at home?

By Sports Desk May 24, 2021

Sergio Ramos has been left out of the Spain squad in perhaps the biggest coaching call heading into Euro 2020.

There have been returns for big names elsewhere – Karim Benzema for France, and Thomas Muller with Germany – but Luis Enrique has not selected his captain.

"Any decision I made about Sergio Ramos would have been controversial," the coach acknowledged. "I know where I am and accept there will be media noise."

But was it the right decision? We break down the Opta data to look at the reasons Ramos did not make the cut.
 

MAIN MAN MISSING FOR MADRID

Luis Enrique explained Ramos "has not been able to compete since January in the right condition, or even train with group", meaning he could not be included.

The Madrid defender has actually played more club minutes in that time (395) than Eric Garcia (360) – who was selected – but the latter was left out of the Manchester City team due to Pep Guardiola preferring alternative options, rather than a patchy fitness record.

Garcia also started all three matches for Spain, playing 266 minutes to Ramos' 50, in March.

Knee, calf and hamstring complaints have limited Ramos' involvement in 2021, but he had also already missed more matches than Madrid would have liked in the first half of the campaign.

By the closing round of LaLiga fixtures on Saturday, which Ramos watched from the bench as Madrid lost their title, the 35-year-old had been absent for significantly more matches (31) for the side this season than he had played (21).

Those 21 games and 1,790 minutes are by far the fewest Ramos has played across a season since joining Madrid in 2005, undercutting the previous low marks of 33 and 2,843 in 2015-16.

Ramos was still able to play his part in seven clean sheets, more than the six Madrid managed with their captain on the field in 2016-17 when he appeared 44 times.

His 2020-21 win rate of 62 per cent was a marginal improvement on the previous campaign, too.
 

BLEND OF BATTLER AND BALL PLAYER

Had Ramos been able to get on the pitch more often, his performances would surely have seen him included by Luis Enrique.

Among Ramos and the five centre-back options named in the squad – Diego Llorente, Pau Torres, Aymeric Laporte, Cesar Azpilicueta and Garcia – the snubbed skipper ranked fourth of the six for tackles (0.9) and tackles won (0.7) per 90 minutes this season.

Ramos was second behind only Llorente (1.5) for interceptions (1.4) and also trailed just the Leeds United man (7.4) in recoveries (5.6).

The World Cup winner was bottom of the pile in blocks (0.3) but third for clearances (2.6), holding his own in the majority of defensive categories.

Llorente (10.4 and 6.0) and Azpilicueta (9.5 and 5.3) led Ramos in duels (7.0) and duels won (4.1), although Laporte (4) joined that duo in contesting more aerial duels than the former Sevilla man (3.8). Ramos (2.4) won more of these battles per 90 than Azpilicueta (2.2), however.

It might come as no surprise that Manchester City pair Garcia (90.1 and 85.5) and Laporte (88.1 and 80.6) top the charts in passes and successful passes, but Ramos (78.5 and 72.1) is third. He is fourth for touches (88.3), too.

Ramos' numbers are competitive in both natural defensive metrics and in ball playing, whereas the others in the squad specialise in one or the other.

Luis Enrique will feel confident he has a wide array of options, but it is clear to see why a conversation with Ramos was "difficult and tough", even if the player later posted on Twitter "the best thing to do is rest, fully recover and come back next year".

The coach and the rest of Spain must hope this is not a costly call.

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