Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique have been the core of Spain’s success but bitter enemies at their clubs in the ultimate move of compartmentalization
It’s become some sort of (lamentable) recurring guest appearance: every single time Spain’s national team plays at home and Gerard Piqué is a starter, the Barça player suffers whistles and boos every moment he makes contact with the ball. This is absolutely astonishing for a country that is normally proud of its passion and loyalty to their national team.
However, a significant portion of the fans with obvious Madridista backgrounds have bad blood with the centre-back due to many years of Twitter trolling and an overall nasty conflict between the player and Los Blancos. And those fans are unable to properly separate between their club and their national team. It’s an embarrassment for the rest of the Spanish supporters, but it doesn’t seem to be stopping soon. Neither will the booing of opposition national anthems (as it happened last week against Italy), in one of the most blatant cases of disrespect and sheer rudeness we’ve seen in a while.
Which takes us inevitably to the ongoing feud-slash-friendship between Piqué himself and Sergio Ramos. For years, both players were comfortable in their shoes in opposite sides of the aisle: after all, Ramos was the charismatic leader at the back for Real Madrid and Piqué kept growing season after season as Barça’s defending flagship man. But the presence of Iker Casillas and Carles Puyol, both in their teams and in Spain as captains and main leaders, made their occasional clashes very seldom.
Once Casillas and Puyol – two veteran, down-to-earth, very noble guys – left or retired, both defenders had to step up their game and take up their mantles. It didn’t take long before shots were fired. Both men are pretty ingenious when delivering statements to the press, and their age (Piqué is 30 and Ramos, 31) puts them to current-gen, technology-apt sportsmen who are much more than just football players: they are brands on their own, with millions of followers in any given social network and with a huge influence in the public arena.
Things escalated quickly throughout the Mourinho era, when Piqué and Ramos clashed almost every game where Madrid and Barça faced-off. It was at that stage when Ramos definitely consolidated his game in the centre of the defense, leaving behind his stint as a powerful, physically impressive right-back. Controversy surrounded every ‘Clásico’ played under Mourinho’s magnetic influence, as two of the most powerful teams in the world grew increasingly annoyed and irritated with each other.
Once Mourinho left, his legacy remained. Nothing was ever the same. Ramos and Piqué were forced to coexist and cooperate as Spain’s top generals in their defense, but outside the national team matters were very different. Both became used to taking jabs at each other throughout the season, but would call truce and work together when the time came to defend Spanish pride in competitions. It was an odd balance, but it worked…. most of the time.
The last huge, oral brawl took place on April, after a particularly tense ‘Clásico’ where Ramos was shown a red card and sent off. The way he saw it, his nemesis Piqué had succeeded in ‘heating up’ the match in the previous weeks, and that had had an effect on the referee’s performance. While he walked towards the locker room, he taunted the Barça defender: “Talk now! Do it!” Their following back and forth in the media was quite nasty, but quietened down as days went by.
These two players, in the tradition of fictitious figures such as Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, Tyrion Lannister and Ser Bronn of the Blackwater, or even Son Gokuh and Vegeta, comically love and hate each other at the same time. And that duality produces a ridiculous amount of entertaining banter both in the press and in any pundit panel that overanalyzes their relationship. The two of them, in their own sense, are smart enough to know how this ‘game’ is played: they’ve been elite players for more than a decade, after all, and know exactly how and when to troll their opponent.
— MARCA (@marca) September 1, 2017
Right now, the time has come for Ramos to step into the spotlight and support his frenemy publicly after he was booed by the Bernabeu crowd last week. Fair enough. At the same time, Piqué showed a few days ago while he played in a training session with Ramos’ two kids that his relationship with the Madridista captain is actually quite healthy. All is good between them… until the next ‘Clásico’ arrives. Then, it will be war once again.
One can only hope that this tremendous competitive spirit is carried on later on their lives: is anyone else up to sitting them down weekly at a La Liga pundit panel and let them rant freely? Now *that* would be great entertainment!