Real Madrid were 2-0 up and cruising when they were awarded a penalty kick against Leganes on Wednesday night. Rodrygo and Toni Kroos had already found the net and so this was a chance to further boost the confidence of one of their struggling players. Eden Hazard should have been the prime candidate. Instead, Sergio Ramos took it. And missed.
Ultimately, Ramos was given a second chance to convert from the spot after the VAR spotted that Juan Soriano had strayed off his line in making the save, but in having his first attempt saved the Real Madrid captain had already raised the question – why does he continue to hit his team’s penalties?
Ramos has held first refusal on most goalscoring set pieces since Cristiano Ronaldo left for Juventus in the summer of 2018, boosting the centre back’s numbers to a career high of six goals in La Liga over the course of last season. But Ramos isn’t an especially strong penalty taker and he certainly isn’t an expert freekick taker.
As captain, Ramos should have the self-awareness to recognise there are better candidates around him to take freekicks and penalties. By claiming them for himself, the defender is only acting out of selfishness and egotism. While it didn’t against Leganes, it could cost Real Madrid.
Ramos has always carried a goal threat. He is a potent presence in the box, getting on the end of freekick and corner kick deliveries. There are few as good as him at attacking a cross whipped right on top of the opposition goalkeeper. Ramos also knows how to act as an emergency striker when his team is desperately looking for a winner.
That is enough for a centre back. Ramos’ primary function on a football pitch isn’t to score goals, it’s to stop them from being scored against Real Madrid. Taking penalties and freekicks is only a distraction to Ramos and Real Madrid as a whole. As club captain, delegation should be among his duties.
It’s somewhat surprising that Zidane hasn’t handed penalty duties to someone like Karim Benzema over Ramos. Maybe Hazard will take more of them once he regains match sharpness, but such is the influence of Ramos in the Santiago Bernabeu dressing room it might not be easy to wrestle the ball off his captain.
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