Ramos follows hero Claudio Caniggia to fill goalscoring gap left by Ronaldo at Real

It should come as no surprise to anyone that one of Sergio Ramos’ biggest heroes growing up in Sevilla was the Argentinian striker Claudio Caniggia. Why idolize a disciplined defender when you can worship a wild-haired free-spirit centre-forward.

Ramos has now scored in each of the last 15 seasons in Spain — only Lionel Messi has managed that — and it was his Panenka-style penalty that got Real Madrid out of trouble at the weekend against Girona.

Ramos started his playing career as a forward at local club Camas.

He was integrated into Sevilla’s youth system by the time he was seven and gradually they dragged him back down the pitch to his current centre-back berth via right-wing, right-midfield, and most famously gallivanting right-back, where he won Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

But no matter how far he travels from goal he catapults back to the opposing team’s area – as he has always said: ‘I have the soul of a striker’.

He made his debut in the 2003-04 season. He scored that season and he has been scoring at least once ever since. He once rifled a long-range free-kick past Iker Casillas in a Sevilla vs Real Madrid fixture. It might have persuaded them to buy him had they not already lined-up his signing.

He has now scored 56 goals in the 432 La Liga games he has played. Real Madrid coach Julen Lopetegui has said that the goals must be shared out this season in the absence of Cristiano Ronaldo. Do not be surprised if Ramos, who wished his father a happy birthday on Instagram on Monday, runs in fourth of the top scorers behind forwards Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema and Marco Asensio.

Penalties will help him do that. He already has two so far this season and Sunday’s spot-kick was him at his impetuous best dinking the kick just under Bono’s bar after a stop-start run-up.

That was a big goal for Real Madrid because they had started badly, with Marcelo being given a torrid time at left-back and Girona having already taken a 1-0 lead. Ramos had not been at his best defensively but he more than made up for it at the other end of the pitch.

He is reveling in the pantomime villain role he now has at each away game. There was a time when he felt the label was as unfair as so many of the record breaking haul of red cards he has received in his career.

But now he seems to enjoy it. He celebrated scoring against Aletico Madrid in the European Super Cup by dancing in front of the Atletico Madrid supporters and he didn’t hold back from winding up the Girona locals after his goal on Sunday.

Since his first goal in 2004 he has been chasing new scoring records for a defender. He notched seven in the 2016-17 campaign and he has to have that number in his sights this season with the bonus of taking penalities and maybe even some of the free-kicks that fall on the left-hand side of the penalty area.

Ronaldo is gone and Ramos wants to do his part in making sure the team do not miss the 50 goals the Portuguese used to score every campaign.

He is currently the 13th highest scorer in La Liga when counting only players who are still playing. And his 56-goal tally is 25 better than any other defender in the 21st century.

His defending suffers at times because of the forward forays but all the time he is scoring more than he is responsible for conceding, coach Lopetegui will not complain.

In an interview with Sportsmail last year one of Ramos best friends at Real Madrid Lucas summed up the club captain’s attacking talent. He said: ‘He has a special gift and it comes from an incredible self-confidence that he can resolve any situation.

‘He’s a world-class defender, the best in the world without any doubt, but then he has that ability to appear when the team needs him most.

‘If he was playing centre forward in any other team he would get 20 goals a season.’

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