When you are part of a European football club, it is probably easy to forget that the rules, at least in theory, also apply to you. Whether it's Manchester City, wiping their collective donkeys with the Financial Fair Play rules, or Barcelona players that are pleasingly linked to tapping. Being part of the continental elite gives you many chances of being a furious asshole with few consequences. Enter Sergio Ramos.
The captain of Real Madrid is known to live in the lawless margins of the rulebook and often stifles adversaries and goes away short or even injures them with at least some evil and no punishment. (Mo Salah sends his greetings.) Although Ramos sometimes does something so stupid that punishment must save him – he owns the dubious La Liga record for 24-man shipments often gets away with nothing but a pat on the wrist.
At the end of Wednesday's round of 16 in the Ajax-Real Madrid Champions League, Ramos once again decided to dive ahead in the gray areas of football by deliberately hard-fouling striker Kasper Dolberg to pick up a yellow card. He even threw some animated trash talk after foul, to make sure he would go into the referee's book.
(Hilosi is Ramos shithousery so well known that Dolberg admitted after the match that he was told by former Real Madrid and current Ajax striker Klaas- Jan Huntelaar running near the hotheaded defender to lure him into a card that would take him out of the other leg.]
Why would Ramos do this? Once you have three yellow cards in the Champions League, you are automatically suspended for a game. With Ajax match-up apparently under control (Madrid won not only 2-1 Wednesday, but the game was coming, so the team has two goals to help it in tiebreakers), Ramos decided to grab a yellow card now and missing return leg would be better than potentially missing out on one of the quarterfinal matches if Madrid were to hold on to its leadership. It would also "clear" its yellow cards so that he could pick up two more in the following stages as needed without getting a suspension in a key game that was deeper in the tournament.
This is pretty crazy, something even UEFA recognizes; The European football body has a provision in its rules (Article 15) which allows the suspension of a player an extra game if it finds that he has deliberately received a reservation that Ramos seems to have done. The rule says that a player will receive a "suspension for two competition matches or a certain period to clearly receive a yellow or red card on purpose."
Of course, it is a very subjective call to make, and there is a small chance that UEFA would give that penalty to the captain in the competition's leading team, as it would involve missing a key fight. Ramos teammate Dani Carvajal received a two-match ban on this offense last season, but it happened in a group game match after Madrid had already secured a place in the knockout round.
Ramos would probably have been safe after his little trick on Wednesday … except he had to open his mouth after the game:
Look at the result I would lie if I said I didn't force [the booking]. It is not to underestimate the opponent or to believe that the series is over, but in football you have to make tough decisions.
This self of a quote makes it quite clear that Ramos not only tried to get his reservation but that he believed at the moment that granting it will not come back to hurt him. Of course, when he understood what he was saying, Ramos said he would never actually do what he previously admitted to doing, no, sir:
I want to make it clear that [missing the next game] hurts more than anyone and that I did not force the card, just as I did not force a card against Roma in my last Champions League match and that I want to root from the stands as a super-fan with the dream of making it the quarter-finals.
It is now up to UEFA to actually lay its own law despite its targeting to one of the most popular players in one of the most popular clubs in the world. Should they decide that Ramos beats his breach of rule, the two-game suspension would see him miss the return leg against Ajax and then the first leg of the quarterfinals matchup, probably against a much better team than the scrappy Dutch boys. Or UEFA could decide to believe Ramos PR massaged tweet over his immediate response and leave his suspension in just one game.
Ramos has put UEFA in a tie here, all because Real Madrid and its players, like many of the other tier 1 pages across the continent, think they can get away with robbing the bank and knowing that UEFA will drive flight car.