understand Sergio Ramos, his longevity and his many successes, you do not have to look far. His CV is displayed proudly across his body, in tattoos which are so numerous that little space remains for any more.
On the knuckles of his left hand are the numbers 35, 19 and +90, which respectively make reference to the shirts he wore when starting out with Sevilla, the number used on his debut with Spain and the extra-time victory when Real Madrid won their iconic 10th Champions League, rescued by his 93rd-minute equaliser.
On the same hand there are the birth dates of his four sons. On his arms are the names of his parents. On the left one, the day he signed for Real Madrid (31 August 2005) and on the left biceps a trophy representing the World Cup won with Spain.
Perhaps a red card – he has been shown 26 of them in his career – is the major omission.
Whether the next inscription will be Real Madrid-related is a matter of increasing conjecture. Centre-back Ramos, 35, is out of contract in the summer and there is little sign of agreement over a new deal being reached.
The future of one of European football’s most successful modern captain-club relationships might be coming to an end. He has been on the brink before, but never in his 16 years at the Bernabeu has he been so close to leaving.
Ramos has been one of the great modern defenders for a decade and a half, a symbol of Real Madrid’s relentless pursuit of success, and throughout that time he has divided opinion – even in his own club’s boardroom.
He became the youngest player in 64 years to make his debut with the national side and his roll of honour includes four Champions Leagues, five La Ligas, one World Cup and two European Championships.
His success, both on and off the pitch, is the result of a mentality that does not believe in half measures.
In bullfighting terms, a tradition he admires, in life you can either go out “through the main door, or you end up in hospital”. In his mind, mistakes are just part of the journey, adding recently on social media that “what defines us are not our errors, but how we face the next targets”.
Few defenders have had his influence in both penalty areas in the history of the game, and he is determined to transcend history with goals and records. He is Madrid’s seventh-highest scorer since the turn of the millennium, and has scored more than any other defender playing in Europe’s top five leagues since 2005.
The Madrid sports daily Diario AS described him as a “centre-back with the soul of a number nine”. He has scored a total of 126 goals in 891 senior games for club and country. Last season from the position of central defender he was the club’s second-highest scorer (behind Karim Benzema on 27 goals) with 13 in all competitions, a personal best for him.
His life off the pitch is as storied as the one on it. His presence in the tabloid media paints a picture of an eccentric millionaire: from his choice of clothes, to a Hollywood-style wedding with Pilar Rubio, to the acquisition of a mansion valued at around 12m euros and which is just part of a large portfolio of properties which puts his fortune above 100m euros.
As was evident in his Amazon series (Sergio Ramos’ Heart) he is a strong personality, a game changer and someone who embraced the idea of being a captain right from the start of his career with Real Madrid.
When he arrived from Sevilla in 2005 aged 19 he told media he wanted to be captain and follow on from legends like Fernando Hierro. He has succeeded in doing that and unquestionably has his place among the Bernabeu legends, whatever others in the footballing worldmight think of him.
So why is his future so uncertain?