'What happened to Salah, I have peace of mind.'

The original version of this article first appeared on tv.bt.com

As a defender for Real Madrid and Spain, two of the best attacking teams packed with midfield magicians and world-class forwards, Sergio Ramos’ incredible record in the past decade feels overlooked. If anything, his trophy cabinet is preceded by his reputation—rightly or wrongly—for bad behaviour on the pitch.

Yet four La Liga titles, four Champions League triumphs, two European Championships, and a World Cup winner’s medal are just some of the accolades among Ramos’ jaw-dropping list of honours. The Real Madrid and Spain captain sat down with BT TV to bare the man behind his crunching tackles, thunderbolt headers, and “dirty player” label.

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'WHO WAS YOUR ROLE MODEL GROWING UP?'

“As a kid I wanted to be a striker, I wanted to score all the time. I worshipped Ronaldo Nazario, Claudio Cannigia, Hernan Crespo; I liked the Argentinians especially because they had long fine hair!

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I developed professionally to become a defender later though, so my role models naturally shifted to Paolo Maldini and Fernando Hierro—two absolutely inspiring leaders and legends.”

'YOU ARE A FATHER OF THREE.'

“Having kids strengthens you. The way they run over to kiss you as they see you, their genuine happiness when you come home from a hard day’s work. 

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They give you this powerful resolve to overcome setbacks and strive for success. For me becoming a father is one of the best things that can happen in life, if not the best.”

'WHAT ABOUT YOUR REPUTATION AS A DIRTY PLAYER?'

“The Mohamed Salah incident, you know what I’m talking about, got me this label. As a professional I accept sticks and stones as part and parcel. I respect every opinion even if people misjudge me.

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At the end of the day I know I would never hurt another fellow professional. My conscience is clear. Noise of this kind will not bring me down and deviate me from my goals with Real Madrid or Spain.”

'IF YOU COULD TURN BACK TIME.'

“I would love to explore the cities I’d travelled to for football more. You touch down on a plane or bus, play the match, go to the hotel, and you’re back on the plane. I didn’t get to know the places as much as I would like.

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Also as professionals you have to invest a lot of time in football. I would definitely love to have more time for my family: Time goes by so quickly, kids grow up so fast, and these are just things that don’t come back.”

'RETIREMENT PLANS?'

“I have no clue yet to be honest. I see myself as having a good few years still with Real Madrid and Spain so I haven’t been putting much thought into it. 

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But I can tell you whatever I do in the future will always be linked to football. It’s my passion and my life; my happiness, my family. It’s the world I want to stay and live in.”

'WHO WILL WIN EURO 2020?'

“England are among the favourites. I played against them last year, they have a good balance of young and experienced players, the team is dangerous in attack and has no obvious weakness. 

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Their only problem is that Spain are in the tournament too and we are a great contender.”

'TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW DOCUMENTARY WITH AMAZON.'

“We actually started filming during one of my worst professional years for Real Madrid and I think that’s something people will be able to see in this documentary: That football is not all rainbows and butterflies. 

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I’ve opened my heart and the doors of my home so that people can see the reality of football players—our passion, efforts, sacrifices, family, and feelings—with full transparency. It’s really different from what you normally get to see from a game, an advertisement, at best a training session; I believe my documentary will surprise many.”

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