Just as he did two years ago, Sergio Ramos left his footprint all over Real Madrid’s Champions League final triumph over Atletico Madrid following a turbulent 12 months.
Ramos scored a controversial opening goal in the San Siro on Saturday and nonchalantly converted his penalty in the shootout before being named man of the match and lifting European soccer’s biggest trophy for the second time in three years.
Ramos influenced the game hugely from the 15th minute when he popped up in front of Atletico goalkeeper Jan Oblak to bundle Gareth Bale’s flicked header into the net and put Madrid ahead, despite appearing to be marginally offside.
Ramos then threw himself in front of a goal-bound shot from Antoine Griezmann and in the second half, with the game delicately poised at 1-1, the Spaniard cut down Yannick Carrasco to end a potentially fatal Atletico attack.
After marshalling his exhausted team through extra time and into the shootout, Ramos calmly tucked Real’s fourth spot-kick into the bottom corner before Cristiano Ronaldo converted the decisive penalty to secure Real’s 11th European Cup.
“There are few things that can compare to winning this trophy, it’s an award for hard work and for suffering because it’s been a very difficult season,” Ramos told reporters.
“Scoring goals is a real boost for me, when you score a goal in a final it will always go down in history.”
Less than a year ago, Ramos was reported to be on the verge of joining Manchester United and ending his decade-long spell with Real.
After a two month stand-off, he ended the speculation by penning a new improved deal in August, saying it was never his intention to leave the Spanish capital.
Despite clearing up his future, Ramos endured a difficult start to the season as Real struggled to gel under coach Rafael Benitez, and the defender dislocated his shoulder a month into the season, then suffering the same injury in November.
He was rushed back to play against Barcelona but came in for more criticism as Real were crushed 4-0 by Luis Enrique’s side. Ramos was sent off against Barcelona five months later at the Nou Camp, though his side went on to win 2-1.
A commanding display in the 3-0 win over Wolfsburg in the Champions League quarter-final second leg marked his return to form, and Ramos admitted after that game he had had a tough season.
All those issues were forgotten, however, as he jubilantly hoisted the Champions League trophy into the Milan sky.
“I suffered a lot after injuring my shoulder, but I decided to stop and then I improved,” added Ramos.
“It’s a privilege to finish the season like this.”