The crown of the ‘greatest soccer player ever’ is often passed around, from generation to generation. Plenty would argue that Pele, who played for a short while in the North American Soccer League, is the greatest of all time. In more recent years, Diego Maradona perhaps held the crown for a short while, whilst Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are widely regarded as the best currently still kicking a ball. Messi is very much a one-club man after recently opting to remain at Barcelona, whilst Ronaldo has played in four of Europe’s top divisions.
In terms of defenders, there are fewer opportunities to impress and whilst some world greats do get noticed, such as England’s Bobby Moore, standing out is hard. Moore also wound up in the NASL for a short while, and is widely regarded as one of the finest defenders of all time.
It might be prudent to add Spanish defender Sergio Ramos to that list, after his 100th goal for Real Madrid in a recent Champions League game against Inter Milan. The 34-year-old has been with Los Blancos for 15 years, racking up 659 appearances for them, in addition to an impressive 175 for Spain. He has won La Liga on five occasions, lifted the Champions League four times and the World Club Cup three times. Internationally, he is a two-time European Championship winner and a World Cup winner too.
It is not just the trophies that support an argument for him being the best defender ever. His longevity is astounding, playing right at the top of his game for 15 years and not looking like fading. He started out as a rampaging right back, but as the years have built up, he converted to a stylish, strong centre back. The move was almost always inevitable; he was given the famous number four shirt when he signed for Madrid, previously worn by another legend of Spain’s defense, Fernando Hierro. It is Hierro’s goalscoring record Ramos is now chasing down; he scored 124 goals for Madrid but did play a portion of his career in midfield.
Ramos came through the youth ranks at Sevilla alongside Jesus Navas and Antonio Puerta. Unfortunately, Puerta went on to appear once for Spain before sadly passing away at the age of 22. He was a two-time UEFA Cup winner with Sevilla and a huge talent, whilst Navas has gone on to have a career almost as illustrious as Ramos. Analysis on footballers burning out by Bwin notes that Navas is approaching his 35th birthday and, like Ramos, he too is still playing right at the top of La Liga. He has also won the UEFA Cup, three times, as well as a Premier League title in England with Manchester City, underlining the quality all three players had emerging at Sevilla.
It is Ramos whose name will likely go down in history as one of the all-time greats though. He has helped Madrid through the Galactico era, and beyond, and remained an integral part of their success as club captain. As for his time with Spain, his 23 goals have him as the highest scoring international defender of all time, one ahead of Argentinian legend Daniel Passarella.
However, with how the game has changed and the physical demands placed upon top stars, there is little doubt that at 34, Sergio Ramos must be considered one of the best defenders of all time, especially as he shows little signs of slowing now.