Goals make football tick. And so when players score them, they are always hailed, especially when those goals help the team win games and trophies. It is not a mistake that the Ballon d’Or and other best player awards are usually bestowed on forwards and goalscorers. We can talk about exceptions like Fabio Cannavaro. But they are so rare I can hardly remember many defenders and goalkeepers who have won the awards.
On the contrary, players like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have won the Ballon d’Or a record five times each. That’s largely due to their goalscoring exploits. In fact, Mohamed Salah made the final three shortlist for both the UEFA Best Player and FIFA Best awards last month on account of his goals for Liverpool.
The awards were claimed by Real Madrid and Croatian midfielder, Luka Modric. Perhaps, one of Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti could have easily won if they weren’t defenders. The duo won several trophies last term, including the biggest of them all – the World Cup.
It becomes understandable when Sergio Ramos seeks to go beyond his primary responsibility of defending. The Real Madrid and Spanish national team captain is often found on the opponent’s half of the pitch trying to score goals. There is no denying the fact that some of his goals have been very vital for club and country. For Los Blancos especially, it has even won them a Champions League trophy. His stoppage-time equaliser against city rivals Atletico Madrid helped Les Merengues come back from a goal down to win the final 4-1 after extra time in 2016. That deserves commendation.
However, striving forward and abandoning your defensive duties as a center-back can be counterproductive as well. Madrid has had a difficult start to the season so far. The team has lost several games it had no business losing. A Real Madrid side losing three matches back-to-back is a rare occurrence. Losing four out of five games at a stretch and conceding seven goals while scoring just one is even rarer still.
Much can be said about the fact that the club has not adequately replaced their former goal machine, Ronaldo. But the Portuguese is not going to keep clean sheets for the club. Also, winning teams usually build attacks from the back. Solidity at the back is usually the foundation to build upon moving forward. A solid defence provides the stability to transition into the final third and score goals. What that means is that when the defence is out of sync, it destabilises the whole team.
Every player has a specific role in the team. Defenders are there to defend and keep clean sheets. Midfielders help move the ball from defence to attack while the forwards are there to provide the necessary finishing. Sergio Ramos has recently become overly concerned about going forward to attack and score goals.
This leaves the team vulnerable at the back. It’s not surprising then that the team has been conceding goals consistently. The 32-year-old is trying to justify his status as one of the best in the game by scoring goals. But that is not how defenders are judged. A defender’s primary job is to help the goalkeeper and the team keep the ball out of the net. Only when that has been achieved should he seek to contribute up front.
When Madrid concede three goals against Sevilla without response, you have to ask the defence questions. Losing to CSKA Moskow and Alaves is also bad. But a 2-1 defeat to Levante in the very next match at the Santiago Bernabeu is embarrassing for a club of Real Madrid’s status.
Understandably, most people would rather blame the manager for the poor start to the season. But players also need to share in the blame and Ramos is one of such.