Just as Spain prepare to end a hoodoo of quarterfinal exits at recent major tournaments by beating world champions Italy on Sunday, off-field tensions have emerged between coach Luis Aragones and Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos.
Ramos on Friday reacted with clear displeasure after Aragones had suggested in a quiet chat with the 22-year-old that he needed to change certain aspects of his attitude.
As the squad prepared for a training session there were clear signs of tension in the air as Ramos gestured wildly in Aragones’ direction to register his disapproval after hearing comments made by his coach.
The controversial Aragones, accused of racism in 2004 when he geed up another squad member, Cesc Fabregas by making a disparaging comment about then Arsenal teammate Thierry Henry, reportedly told Ramos he had to alter his off-field behaviour when they had a heart-to-heart on Thursday.
“We exchanged views,” said Aragones. “There are a few things which I can pass on to him through my experience. You are a better footballer when you have more order in all respects. Sometimes, there is the odd thing which is not good, though not on the field,” Aragones told a news conference.
For his part, Ramos had earlier intimated to reporters that he was not always clear under Aragones when he was supposed to move forward out of the back four and when he should stay back.
Fellow defender Carlos Marchena tried to calm Ramos after Aragones’ criticism but the Real star angrily pushed him aside and moments later Aragones said the time for chatting was over as they headed for the training field.
Striker Fernando Torres later played down any talk of dissent in the camp.
“We’e been talking about music,” he said as a way of changing the subject.
According to Spanish media on Friday afternoon, Aragones has been annoyed with Ramos for issues such as turning up for squad meals late and then not being on time for the team bus.
We have no fear: Torres
Meanwhile, Fernando Torres is confident Spain will triumph against Italy even though he considers the reigning world champion the favourites.
“I think on paper they are the favourites but we don’t have any fear and we’re not scared by the record of Italy or any of its players,” the striker said Friday. “We are aware of the options we have and we’re going to win the match.”
Although both teams are usually considered title contenders ahead of every major championship, Italy has a much better record, with four World Cups and one European Championship. Spain’s only major trophy is the 1964 European Championship.
“It’s a team that you have to respect and you have to respect each one of their players,” said Torres.
“With the record they have ... they are the favourites. Maybe they didn’t have a brilliant group stage but they didn’t either in the (2006) World Cup and they ended up winning it,” the Liverpool player added.