In the 92nd minute of the Classico between Barcelona and Real Madrid, with 100,000 euphoric Catalans celebrating their club’s historic performance and 5-0 demolition of the eternal rival, Leo Messi surged forward one final time, ball at his feet. From an angle Madrid’s Sergio Ramos brutally brought Messi down with a criminal challenge that had the appearance of intent to hurt Messi seriously, to break the leg of the world’s best player on a night when he took the Madrid defense apart. So far, the story is just rude, an outburst of frustrated violence around the play, but what happened next was astonishing.
Barca captain Carles Puyol ran in to defend his team-mate Messi and, as he got near, Ramos shoved his face with such force that Puyol went tumbling to the ground. Ramos looked like a man possessed and was next ready to take on Pique, going far beyond the frustration of losing with humiliation. Ramos and Puyol have been playing next to each other for many years on the Spanish national team, reigning European and World champions. It was impossible to believe such vitriol could emerge out of Ramos. Barca’s only other tough guys, Pique and Busquets were right next to Ramos and, incredibly, they did little to retaliate after Ramos threw Puyol to the ground. Ramos was eliminated for the foul against Messi and, for good measure, on the way out he shoved Xavi’s face away.
Puyol tried to defuse the episode after the match, stating that it is history and forgotten, but that remark fails to convince. Ramos looked straight at Puyol for a split second before slamming him down and yet Puyol did not retaliate. Does that mean that Puyol, who is Barca’s symbol of toughness, is intimidated by Ramos? Xavi on the other hand expressed surprise at Ramos’ outburst of violence. In one sequence Ramos kicked, shoved or confronted Messi and four of his close Spanish team-mates. For his part, Ramos remained silent and today he was suspended for only one match for the red card, a shockingly lenient punishment for 60 seconds of manic conduct. Just for return match in April, Guardiola should buy Nigel de Jong from Man City in January.