Sergio Ramos tells UEFA.com why he is pleased that Zinédine Zidane is "the captain of our ship", what makes the Madrid coach successful and how the European champions are planning for Napoli.
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Napoli's round of 16 visit to the Santiago Bernabéu on Wednesday will bring defender Sergio Ramos into contact with compatriots and former Real Madrid players Raúl Albiol and José Callejon.
For Ramos, his team-mates and coach Zinédine Zidane, the tie represents the latest hurdle in the Spanish club's attempt to become the first side to retain the UEFA Champions League title.
In this interview, the Madrid captain discusses Zidane's impact since succeeding Rafael Benítez last January, the challenge Napoli will pose and why he is a regular name on the scoresheet this season.
UEFA.com: Tell us about the second half of last season – how did you enjoy having Zidane as coach?
Ramos: Zizou's arrival was positive and he brought in many changes. Every manager has his own philosophy, his own ideas and way of interacting with the players and striking up a bond with them.
Zizou was a player himself and you can see this in his approach to management. He has his own unique point of view and ideas.
He explained very clearly what he expected from us. We started the calendar year quite well. We almost won the league and we fought from the day he arrived until the end of the season. We achieved one of our main goals, winning the Champions League, which was very important for us yet challenging at the same time.
UEFA.com: How would you describe Zidane's impact?
Ramos: Very good. He has been able to translate the humility and talent he had as a player into handling the dressing room, when he's needed to, as a coach. This is a great quality.
He has that certainty, that feeling with the players; he understands how we think. That isn't easy in a dressing room like ours, with people from all over the world, different cultures and customs. He has managed to keep the balance in the changing room. In the end, the team notices that and you can see the results on the pitch.
We are very happy with him and pleased that he's in charge and the captain of our ship. We hope to keep getting results and achieving our objectives, which after all is what determines a coach's stay at a club.
UEFA.com: No team have won back-to-back European Cups since AC Milan in 1989 and 1990. Will Real Madrid do it this season?
Ramos: I hope so. If no one has done it since then it's because it's too difficult, but we are the reigning champions and we can enjoy the feeling of being able to defend the title and trying to win it again.
We're going to take things step by step, with lots of humility and lots of respect for our opponents, but we'll try to do things well.
UEFA.com: How do you view the tie against Napoli?
Ramos: Napoli are in a really good run of form and we know we've got a really tough match ahead. The Champions League is always difficult and the teams are flexible, quick and play well on the counter. You have to be really careful in defence.
UEFA.com: You are enjoying your most prolific season in front of goal. What do you attribute that to?
Ramos: You put in the hours in training, but you also have ambition and hope. You should aim for the best in everything you do, and – like I've always said – Madrid's spirit and DNA forces us to fight to the end. That means that at any moment, even in the last minutes of a game, you need to believe and hope that anything is possible.
So you put all these things together – the work, the dedication and the sacrifices made down the years. I've dedicated a lot of time to headers, improving my technique every day, and now I'm reaping the rewards and you can see the results.