"An unforgettable year" took another twist for the better as €27m Sergio Ramos became Real Madrid CF's first Spanish signing in five years.
Only Zinedine Zidane, Luís Figo, Ronaldo, David Beckham and Nicolas Anelka arrived at the Santiago Bernabéu for a fee larger than the €27m paid yesterday to Sevilla FC for Ramos, who earlier this year became the first 18-year-old to play for Spain since goalkeeper Juan Acuña in 1941. It was an effortless transition, and the player has since graduated to become a regular for Luis Aragonés's side.
For Ramón 'Monchi' Rodríguez, sporting director at Sevilla - the club Ramos joined as an eleven-year-old - that was no surprise. "Sergio arrived at the club when he was a small boy and since that time, he has been constantly grafting away at his game," he told uefa.com. "Even then you could see that he had extraordinary maturity. In terms of physical ability he seems much older than he is, and to be able to play as a full-back in the Spanish game you need a great deal of technical ability and he has that as well."
A place on the right side of defence may be Ramos's preferred position, but he has learned enough to play a variety of roles. Sevilla coach Joaquín Caparrós tried his luck by shifting the teenager into the centre of defence last season and it proved to be a notable success. "In all honesty, I don't mind where I play," Ramos told uefa.com. "These are decisions that a boss makes. After years of playing at right-back, it was the coach who wanted me in the centre and to tell the truth, I am just as comfortable there and I think I have adapted a bit more to my new role."
Another memorable moment last season came when Ramos scored a terrific goal from a free-kick against his future employers. "I thought I would have a crack at it," Ramos remembered. "I scored a similar goal against Real Sociedad [de Fútbol] - maybe not as spectacular - but this time luck went my way." It was just another highlight of a truly thrilling 2004/05 season for Ramos. "For me it's been an unforgettable year because of all the good things that have happened to me," he said. "Holding down a regular place with my club then being called up for the national team, which is something that as a player, you will always remember."
However, as he signed an eight-year contract at Madrid, he may just have capped even those two great achievements. Not that the pressure is likely to tell on the youngster. "I just try to do my job as calmly as possible," he told uefa.com. That calmness could yet pay dividends for Madrid as they seek a return to the glory days this season.