Real Madrid’s versatile defender Sergio Ramos has quite a following in Malaysia.
These fans must be worried to see Ramos, who has been playing as a centerback under manager Jose Mourinho, on the bench when Real beat Manchester City 3-2 in their Champions League group opener at Santiago Bernabeu on Tuesday.
Taking over his place was France Under-21 international Raphael Varane, a talented player but one who obviously lacks experience at this elite level of competition.
Is the outspoken Ramos now out of favour? Or is he out of form like many of the team regulars who are under performing at the current time?
Or something else did happen?
There were reports earlier in the Spanish press which claimed Ramos and goalkeeper Iker Casillas were not seeing eye-to-eye with Mourinho and his sulking star attacker Cristiano Ronaldo.
Mourinho insisted he has no problem with the 26-year-old Ramos after he left the defender out of the side that beat City.
“He didn’t play because the coach decided that he didn’t play. He is a fantastic player, but I want to make clear (to) some of you experts (at) changing the truth, there are no problems with Ramos. This decision was taken purely on sports grounds,” he said.
Is this the truth? Maybe not.
Following Real’s 1-0 defeat Sevilla Primera Liga last Saturday, which left the Spanish champions eight points behind leaders and bitter rivals Barcelona, Ramos publicly questioned why Mourinho had been critical of his players.
And apparently, not everyone connected with Real celebrated Ronaldo’s last-minute winner on Tuesday.
With Ronaldo on his knees in the penalty area, his manager adopting the same position just pitch-side of the touchline, and the majority of the crowd with their arms held aloft, Casillas stood hands on hips staring down the pitch as if he was watching a throw-in.
Let's remember that the passionate Ramos, who can also play effectively as a right-back, is a national hero after helping Spain to twice win the European Championship and to win the World Cup as well.
These supporters, especially those who adore Ramos, must be upset that he had been left out in the first place.
This intriguing drama continues as now Varane has refuted claims that he wants to leave Real after making his first appearance of the season on Tuesday.
He said he is happy in Madrid, contrary to reports linking him with a move away from the Bernabeu. “I’m happy. If I don’t play, I want to play, that’s normal,” he told Marca.
“I work hard every day. I don’t plan on leaving. I had an average pre-season and that’s why I hadn’t played until now, but I have Mourinho’s backing.”
He was also thankful for the words of encouragement from his experienced defensive partner in the match against City.
“Pepe has talked to me a lot, he’s been a leader for me and I’m grateful for that,” he said.
The trouble is not over for Mourinho and Real despite the win over City.
The clubs supporters, not only in Spain but all over the globe, are not too happy to see their beloved Real at 12th in the Primera Liga standings with just four points to their name.
It’s like a nightmare to them.
Real will take on sixth-placed Rayo Vallecano at Campo de Futbol de Vallecas on Sunday and they cannot afford to suffer another defeat.
Will Ramos be back? Or Varane playing again?
Watch out for the next episode of the Real drama series.