A LOOK AT LA LIGA
Sergio Ramos always splits opinion; in the next few weeks, he's going to completely divide his beloved Real Madrid fan base. He's still going strong, arguably the best defender in the world right now, but his contract expires at the end of the season and there is an almighty decision to be made.
The romantics will insist he simply must be awarded a new deal, no questions asked. He is fundamental to Real's success and still the most influential player at the club. Apart from missing a couple of penalties, there are no signs of his powers diminishing at the age of 34. He's just set a record of international caps for a European player and is rightly the first name on the Spain and Real Madrid team-sheet.
This is the man whose talents have earned him a World Cup winners' medal to go with five Liga titles and Champions League successes. So, his camp quite rightly believes a renewal and rise is fully justified.
Alas, the decision makers at the Bernabéu must cast romance aside. They need to address a loss of 190 million euros and every euro is being accounted for. The players have already agreed to a 10 per cent wage cut and may be asked to take an even bigger hit. The club would love to keep their beloved captain, but a pay rise is out of the question and it's unlikely he'll get the two-year agreement he desires.
The last time he negotiated a new deal he used Manchester United's interest as a threat. This time, his people are quoting a potential 20 million euros per season for the new two campaigns. The difference is the last time he wasn't talking of a deal that would take him into his thirty-eighth year.
President Florentino Pérez doesn't have his poker face on when he says he can't match those terms. It's cold economics. I'd imagine they will make an offer of a one-year deal with an option of an extension if he hits appearance targets. I'd also expect Paris Saint-Germain to make an offer in January and other non-Spanish teams to try their luck too. But it's less likely an MLS franchise or rich Arab club will give him a retirement fund like David Beckham or Xavi Hernández.
You will read stories of English clubs getting linked. Manchester United obviously need a new centre half and Liverpool desperately require cover for Virgil van Dijk and Joe Gomez. These are just planted as a negotiating distraction. The chances of him going to the Premier League are about as likely as me replacing him as Real Madrid's skipper!
It probably comes down to whether he moves to the French capital for one final pay-day - or 24 if he gets paid monthly - or sees out his final days kicking people around the Bernabéu.