As key characters on the opposite side of the Clasico divide, the pair warred with one another many times, but they are now united by a common goal
Barcelona and Real Madrid’s biggest icons, Lionel Messi and Sergio Ramos, warred for well over a decade at the peak of Spanish football, but now have been brought together as team-mates at Paris Saint-Germain.
From brutal tackles, verbal barrages and thrilling one-on-one battles, Ramos and Messi’s rivalry made sparks fly in countless Clasicos, but now the duo must quickly consign their differences to history and pull in the same direction.
Thursday marked Lionel Messi’s first day of PSG training and the sight of the ex-Madrid and Barca captains in a warm embrace will take some getting used to.
The first time they notably clashed was in 2010, when frustration got the better of Ramos, as Messi’s incredible performance in Barcelona’s 5-0 win over Real Madrid drove him to boiling point.
With the Argentine still ghosting past Madrid defenders in stoppage time, Ramos reached the end of his tether and scythed down Messi from behind, sending the forward crashing to the Camp Nou turf.
“Terrible kick by Ramos; a terrible blow,” muttered the commentators, disapprovingly, as the Madrid man was dismissed.
Ramos shoved Carles Puyol in the face, and followed it up with another palm in the direction of Xavi Hernandez for good measure, as he stormed off the pitch under the dead-eyed stare of then-coach Jose Mourinho.
Mourinho had accused Messi of theatrics ahead of the clash, and the Argentine put on a show for him, despite not scoring for the first time in 10 Clasicos.
Barcelona’s playmaker dropped deep into midfield from his false nine role, controlling the game, not allowing Ramos to get near him without being dragged out of position.
Overall, the Messi era was not a kind period for Real Madrid, in domestic terms, with Los Blancos winning three leagues since 2009, in contrast to Barcelona’s eight.
That meant Ramos vs Messi confrontations more often ended up in favour of the latter, with the Barcelona striker’s 18 goals a record in the Clasico.
However, without Ramos on the pitch doing his best to shackle the Argentine – and, in recent seasons, he edged this battle, with Messi not netting against Real Madrid since 2018 – the diminutive No.10 was able to do a lot more damage.
Ramos, remember, was sent off for a wild, two-footed, studs-up lunge at Messi in 2017 at the Santiago Bernabeu and that game ended 3-2 in Barcelona’s favour, with Messi iconically raising his shirt to the stands after netting a last-minute winner.
However, Ramos had the last laugh that season, with Madrid lifting the title, and it was when the World Cup winner could keep Messi at bay, that Madrid enjoyed Clasico success.
In Los Blancos’ last seven Clasico wins, dating back to 2012, Messi only scored once. And in that match, Madrid’s 2-1 La Liga win in March 2013, it was Ramos who grabbed the winner.
The Andalusian headed home from a corner in the 82nd minute, atoning for failing to stop Messi’s earlier equaliser, when he might have blocked the forward’s path to goal.
Perhaps their most furious encounter came in 2019, though, when Ramos swung an arm at Messi during a challenge.
Although the defender didn’t make clean contact with his opponent, Messi was enraged and the pair butted heads.
Over the years, there have been plenty of flashpoints between the two, some going unpunished by the officials and now lost in the mists of time.
But whatever unseemly business happened on the pitch between Messi and Ramos tended to stay on the pitch.
Ramos revealed he has always regarded Messi as one of the best in the world.
“I have huge respect for him,” he told La Liga in 2020. “I think he’s one of the greatest players in history and I have huge respect for him.”
In recent months, Ramos made jovial overtures to Messi, to persuade him to join him at Real Madrid, back when he still thought he would be staying there this season.
“He could stay at mine for the first week or so,” said Ramos on the streaming platform Twitch in March. “He can find his feet and get comfy, I’d be more than happy to do that.”
However, Ramos saw his contract renewal offer withdrawn by Real Madrid and wound up in the French capital, with Messi joining him there this week, allowing the Spaniard to finally get his wish.
“Who’d have thought it, right, Leo?” said Ramos on Instagram, posting a photo of his PSG shirt next to Messi’s.