Sergio Ramos burst into tears as he said farewell to Real Madrid on Thursday after 16 years but left with a parting shot, saying he was surprised that the club decided to withdraw a one-year contract offer to him by claiming it had expired.
Ramos, who made 671 appearances for Real and scored 101 goals including netting in two Champions League finals, ran down his contract with the 13-time European champions and was unable to agree a new deal with the club.
“The first thing I want to say is that I never wanted to leave. I wanted to stay here,” Ramos said in a press conference.
The Spaniard said he was offered a one-year contract on a 10 per cent reduction to his previous salary but was holding out for a two-year deal “so my family could have continuity and tranquillity”, only to find out the previous offer had been withdrawn.
“I said ‘okay’ but they told me the offer that was on the table had expired. I respect their decision but it was a surprise,” he said.
“I didn’t realise the offer had an expiry date. There will be many opinions about me but I’d prefer people to know the full story first and the president and club know it wasn’t about money, they offered me one year and I wanted two.”
Ramos, 35, acknowledged “there were some calls” when he entered the final six months of his contract in January but stressed “leaving Real Madrid was never on my mind”.
But he added: “Life goes on, an era has finished and a new one is starting. Now is not the moment to talk about other clubs but we’ll find the right one for me.”
A venture abroad to either Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1 or the Premier League look like his most likely destinations due to his high salary, and he dismissed suggestions he could return to boyhood club Sevilla.
“Sevilla is another club close to my heart and I had a marvellous time there but today I’m not contemplating that option and neither are they,” he said.
He also laughed off a question on whether he could join Real’s eternal rivals Barcelona, saying “it’s a resounding no”.
Club president Florentino Perez, who brought Ramos to Real from Sevilla in 2005 for 27 million euros, a then-record fee for a Spanish defender, thanked the player for “making Real Madrid’s legend even greater and ensuring it is the most admired club in the world”.
“It’s not an easy day because you’ve been really special to me and you and I have lived and suffered through historic moments for Real Madrid,” Perez added.
“I wish you all the best and want you to know this will always be your home, a legend like you will always be one of this club’s great ambassadors.”
Ramos joined Real from Sevilla in 2005 and has won five league titles, two Copa del Reys, four Champions Leagues and four Club World Cups.
It was during his time in the Spanish capital that he also won the 2010 World Cup with Spain along with back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012.
However, injuries have taken their toll in the most recent campaign as he played just 21 times as Real lost out in the title race to city rivals Atletico while also going out at the semi-final stage of the Champions League.
The 35-year-old struggled with muscle injures and a knee problem that required surgery, meaning he only played once since March – the 2-0 Champions League semi-final second-leg defeat to Chelsea on May 5.
It also meant Ramos missed out on Spain’s squad for Euro 2020 as manager Luis Enrique opted to select no Real players in his squad.
Spanish press reports have continually questioned Ramos’ long-term future at the Bernabeu with the club hierarchy keen on making wholesale changes to the playing squad this summer.
Ramos will be a free agent and a host of top clubs are already reported to be interested in signing him.
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