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|(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 03, 2020 Real Madrid's Spanish defender Sergio Ramos celebrates his goal during the UEFA Champions League group B football match between Real Madrid and Inter Milan at the Alfredo di Stefano stadium in Valdebebas, on the outskirts of Madrid. Sergio Ramos said Sevilla is "the other club of my heart, the club of my life" but still he discarded the possibility of returning to the club with whom his relationship has never been straightforward. Ramos bid an emotional farewell to Real Madrid after failing to agree an extension to his contract, at the end of 16 years which brought 22 titles and saw him become one of the club's greatest ever players. PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP|
Ramos bid an emotional farewell to Real on Thursday after failing to agree an extension to his contract. It marked the end of 16 years which brought 22 titles and the status of one of the club's greatest players.
Before the glamour of the Santiago Bernabeu and the prestige of making his debut for Sevilla, Ramos started at his home-town side of Camas, just across the Guadalquivir river, on a pitch where now there is only dirt and wild flowers.
"When he was three or four years old, he was already kicking balls out on the pitch," says the former Camas club president Juan Luis Angulo, whose cousin, Eloy Angulo, coached Ramos when he was six years old.
Eloy still calls Ramos "my Sergio" and after training him at Camas, he continued to work with the talented youngster even after the player joined Sevilla's academy aged 12.
- Mounds of mud -
Eloy made Ramos run over mounds of mud "so that he would gain strength" and gave him exercises to improve his technique.
"I forbid him from passing the ball long because that was where he could make mistakes," says Eloy, who at 65 is still coaching children. "I told him, 'you're young, play the safe pass so that you get picked every Sunday! When you're rich, you can play long passes."
Eloy was president of Camas during the nineties and in his living room at home, he still has a Ramos file from the 1995-96 season.
He has only one regret, that he has lost contact with his former disciple as Ramos grew into a global superstar with more than 44 million followers on Instagram.
Spain's former captain is rarely seen in his home town. If he returns it is more often to the horse farm that he owns nearby, in Bollullos de la Mitacion, where he likes to go with family and friends.
None of his family remain in Camas either. When Ramos left for Madrid, most of them went with him, including his parents, Jose Maria and Paqui, and his brother Rene, who is also his agent. His sister Mirian left as well.
"When he does come back to Camas, it's like God is coming, people throw themselves at him," says Juan Luis Angulo.
Ramos was handed his debut for the first team by Joaquin Caparros in 2004.
Pablo Blanco, Sevilla's academy director, remembers the first time he saw Ramos play. "Sergio was blond, not very tall but strong and vivacious, with these very lively eyes," says Blanco. "We put on a trial match with other kids and we liked him a lot. Even then he had this personality and a lot of self-confidence."
While in the changing room, Ramos was "talkative and cheerful", on the pitch he was serious, which immediately endeared him to Sevilla's coaches.
"He wasn't shy and he came in believing in his own strength, in his own style," says Blanco.
- 'Why does he behave like that?' -
In 2005, aged 19, with Sevilla struggling financially, Ramos was snapped up by Real Madrid for 27 million euros.
It was an abrupt departure and while it never extinguished the admiration of Sevilla's coaches, it fuelled the "grumbles" of the fans at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, when Ramos proceeded to celebrate Madrid goals against his former club.
"People said to themselves, 'we raised him here, he is from here, he is a Sevilla player, he is a friend of Jesus Navas, of Antonio Puerta, we took care of him when he was in the Spanish team. So why does he behave like that?" Blanco says.
Sevilla finished fourth in La Liga last season, with Diego Carlos and Jules Kounde, the 22-year-old Frenchman now tipped for stardom himself, forming an impressive partnership at the back.
For Sevilla, there may be little need for Ramos, or his 12-million-euro salary. For a 35-year-old desperate to win trophies, Sevilla remain a level below Europe's elite.
"As of today, I am not considering that option, and Sevilla the same, they're not considering it either," said Ramos. "It's a different moment now, for them and for me."
Many players have made emotional returns to former clubs, when the level of affection has made logic irrelevant.
Sevilla though have always felt more admiration than adoration for the prodigal son who may never come home.