Ramos plays down Real rift talk
Sergio Ramos has denied that speculation of a split between the Real Madrid dressing-room and boss Jose Mourinho will hamper his side against Atletico Madrid in Friday night's Copa del Rey final.
The build-up to the game has seen persistent rumours of a break between the Blancos players and coaching staff, with Ramos himself prominent in a team-bonding dinner organised by the players during the week, to which the Portuguese manager and his assistants were not invited.
Reports that Madrid president Florentino Perez has already lined up Carlo Ancelotti to replace Mourinho next season have hardly dampened the feeling of a relationship coming to a [bad] end, but the club vice-captain said he and his team were not concerned with anything outside of preparing for the final.
"The rumours which have been created are not important, what is important is the group," Ramos said. "Real Madrid comes before all of us. When you are playing for a trophy you must forget about everything else. We have prepared very well for the final and we just want the game to start."
There was surprise in the press room when neither Mourinho, nor assistant Aitor Karanka, appeared to answer questions as is customary for a pre-game press conference. Ramos said he had been asked to come out, and did not see anything strange in it.
"We are here to talk about a game of football, not people's futures or any rows or controversies," he said. "I am one of the club captains, and it does not bother me to come out here. I am happy to come out and talk about the final."
The Spanish international, who has not played since picking up a muscle injury in Madrid's Champions League exit to Borussia Dortmund on April 30, suggested he was answering a call to play despite not being 100 per cent fit.
"The boss knows perfectly how I am and what I have had," he said. "I am here and available, I am the first to help my team. Maybe for circumstances the team needs me, the most important is the group and the big final tomorrow. The day after we will see how I am and how I recover. It is very important for me to be there."
Questions about whether he would prefer Pepe, likely to be on the bench at best after falling out with Mourinho, was his partner in central defence were expertly ducked.
"I do not decide [the team]," Ramos said. "If I was the coach I could give you the line-up. I have no headlines here, nor do I want to give any to you. I can assure you that everyone in the squad is ready to play, nobody thinks they are first choice or a substitute."
Short shrift was also given to a French reporter who asked whether Cristiano Ronaldo had discussed a possible summer transfer to Paris Saint-Germain with his current teammates.
"There are few people in Europe who could pay Ronaldo's clause," Ramos said. "To get him you would need to pay that. He is a player who belongs at Madrid, and he is happy here."
The Andalucian did concede that it was important for Madrid to win the final and claim a major trophy to end the season on a positive note, considering his team had lost out to Dortmund in Europe and Barcelona in La Liga.
"Maybe if we lose tomorrow it will be a failure but this is not about saving the season with a trophy," he said. "It is about winning the game, and ensuring the fans go home happy at the end of the year."
Even though Atletico have now gone 25 games without a 'derbi' win over their neighbors to the north, Ramos said it was a 50/50 game.
"There are no favourites, either team could win," he said. "We know it will be a very difficult game. Above all with a trophy on the line. They have improved a lot under [Diego] Simeone. This is the last big game in the Bernabeu this season and should be something very nice."