- Whether you worship at his altar or think he's the biggest villain in world soccer, Sergio Ramos has a polarizing following for his on-field exploits. He gives a glimpse into his off-field life and offers more insight into just who he is in a new docuseries.
There’s a scene in the third episode of El Corazon de Sergio Ramos (The Heart of Sergio Ramos) where the player’s mother, Paqui Ramos, tells a quick anecdote about when Sergio had to take part in a youth tournament and play against his older brother, Rene.
During the game, as both contested for a ball in the air, Sergio broke Rene’s nose in the process.
“Rene told him ‘Hey, I’m your brother!” remembers Paqui. “And Sergio said, ‘There’s no brothers in soccer.’”
In many ways, this is the best way to describe the 33-year-old center back, who is probably best known for his aggressive, sometimes reckless style of play. No player, in fact, has been booked in La Liga or the Champions League more than Ramos, who also holds this record with the Spanish national team. Bookings aside, there are also specific moments that have fostered his reputation as the game’s chief villain, most notably his challenge on Mohamed Salah in the 2018 UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Liverpool.
But there are also many goals and achievements, including four La Liga titles, four Champions League winners medals, a World Cup title and two European championships–all accolades that cement him as one of the best defenders the modern game has ever seen.
The statistics and highlights, whether positive or negative, paint only one picture of the player. Amazon Prime’s latest soccer docuseries aims to show its audience another side of the Real Madrid veteran.
“A lot of people know me,” Ramos says. “But only from what can be seen on the outside. That image doesn’t always reflect how I really am.”
From Leeds United: Take Us Home to Netflix’s Juventus: First Team, most recently-released soccer projects have focused on the organization, using a team-centric narrative and introducing multiple leading characters in order to tell the story. But El Corazon de Sergio Ramos has one clear protagonist, and in the space of eight episodes (SI.com was able to watch the first six in advance of its Friday release) the production attempts to unravel the multiple layers of his personality.
For the majority of the time, the show, which is beautifully crafted in both direction and design, lives up to its main objective, as it goes behind the scenes of Ramos’s life with his wife, TV presenter and media personality Pilar Rubio, and his three sons Sergio Jr., Marcos and Alejandro.
These scenes, though obviously stylized in the same way you might see in a Bravo reality show, still manage to work in showing an organic, loving family. The kids for starters, are impossibly adorable.
There’s a scene, for example, when Ramos is away with the national team in training camp and Rubio and his kids surprise him with gifts and drawings outside the parking lot.
Another funny moment is when Rubio is in the car with the kids on the way to the Bernabeu and she asks Sergio Jr. who his favorite player is, presuming of course he’ll say his father. But with a straight face, he says, “Luka Modric.”
Aside from his parents, the other major character in the show is Rene, who has served as his agent throughout his career. They have a tremendously close bond, and it’s evident throughout the show.
“Sergio will always be my little brother, and If I have to pull him by the ear, then I’ll do it just like always,” says Rene, smiling to the camera.
“Rene, as an agent, is very demanding and very strict,” responds Sergio, speaking lovingly of his older brother. “But in the end, we make each other better.”
For Real Madrid fans, the show will add an extra dose of interest, as the cameras go behind last season’s disastrous campaign and how their captain dealt with the pressure of restoring the club’s reputation. He infamously filmed part of the series while watching from the luxury suites as Real Madrid was bounced from the Champions League by Ajax–a match he purposefully missed via yellow card accumulation with hopes of being clear for the quarterfinals that never came. From 5-1’s loss to Barcelona in El Clasico to the multiple managerial changes throughout the season, we see the defender going through what he calls the worst time he’s ever experienced as a professional.
Julen Lopetegui’s exit, for example, was particularly difficult to deal with, as both had a close relationship from working together for club and country.
In terms of cinematic style, where this production truly excels is how it gives you a full rounded picture of Ramos. Aside from the footballing perspective, we get to know him as a family man, son, brother, father and husband (he was a fiancé at the time of filming).
But Ramos, who is extremely close to his Spanish and Andalusian roots, wanted the show to also be somewhat of a love letter to Spain.
“To be Andalusian, to be Sevillian comes from within. It comes from the heart. I am who I am, in part, because of where I’m from,” he says proudly, kicking off the third episode.
The show’s heartbeat, therefore, comes from a unique understanding of Spanish culture. We learn of Ramos’s love for Flamenco, horse breeding and his close bond with Catholicism. Ramos actually owns a stable dedicated to the breeding of Andalusian horses, and in the show, his favorite, “Yucatan SR4,” becomes a world champion.
One thing that helps is that Ramos is very good on camera and has no problem serving as either the subject or being the interviewer himself. One particular project is a Real Madrid web series where he interviews previews captains of the club. They’re smart conversations where Ramos excels as the host, creating an intriguing conversation with previous legends. In one particular interview with legendary defender and captain Fernando Hierro, Ramos listens as Hierro explains the magnitude and responsibility of being Real Madrid captain.
“You need to be able to manage the responsibility of wearing the armband. If not, it eats you,” he advises Ramos, who carries this thought throughout the show.
If there is criticism in El Corazon de Sergio Ramos, is that the series often feels too stylized, working too hard to give you a product without imperfection. And at a time when the viewer is spoiled with so many shows, the need for raw authenticity is necessary in order to fully tell a story. It’s why series like Sunderland Til I Die or the aforementioned Leeds United series work well, because the beauty of sports storytelling often lies in tragedy and moments of adversity.
It’s not to say the series doesn’t have that. It’s just that due to Ramos’s thirst for perfection, both professionally and personally, we fail to see enough moments of vulnerability.
Regardless, the series works due to Ramos’s leading-man charisma. He’s a talented man who will surely do much more once he retires.
But for now, El Corazon de Sergio Ramos succeeds as the canvas in which he can paint his own narrative. Whether you respect or detest him on the pitch, applaud or boo his antics, one thing is for sure: Sergio Ramos has a lot to say.