Ramires - 'The Blue Kenyan'
A quality box-to-box midfielder is often the driving force behind a successful football team. He must be a complete player in how he attacks and how he defends. In this Namaqua feature, we look at players both past and present who have enjoyed success in this role…
This week’s focus is on Chelsea midfielder Ramires.
His standout strength is his athleticism
In some quarters he’s been called a South American version of a young Michael Essien – a box-to-box midfielder who never stops running. It is true he doesn’t have the same power and physicality that the ‘Bison’ once possessed - the Ghanaian at his peak was a force of nature... a powerhouse who stampeded through the opposition, whose recovery speed and ability to rescue situations that seemed lost perhaps being his greatest strengths - yet Ramires does have qualities that are comparable to Essien in his prime. Most notable of these is that, to use a worn-out clique, he covers every blade of grass. His quickness over five to 10 yards means he’s the first to get to the breakdown.
His stamina and endurance levels are simply insane. The Brazilian just never seems to tire. Whether it’s tracking back 50 yards at a full sprint, or joining in on one of Chelsea’s breaks when Jose Mourinho parks the bus and uses a counter-attacking system, the 27-year-old has the cardiovascular fitness of a top-class middle distance Olympic athlete. In a sense, his greatest strength is his athleticism. In a game that, at the highest levels, is dominated by unbelievable physical specimens, Ramires’ outstanding engine is a cut above the rest. It is perhaps only technically where questions can be asked about his overall quality.
Ramires’ defining moment of world-class precision
It was 2012 and one of the most breathtaking UEFA Champions League semi-finals seen in recent memory was taking place. The drama on the night was a complete adrenaline overdose. Chelsea were being battered by Barcelona’s tiki-taka at the Camp Nou, yet, through sheer will and defensive bravery that was simply heroic, the Blues were somehow holding on. At times it was desperate – one last ditch tackle after another was going in as Barca’s possession-based style threatened to strangle the life out of the Blues. On the day Didier Drogba was absolutely immense. It was as if a great African Chief was marshalling Chelsea into a resolute impi. It was also an occasion on which Ramires shone for his technical ability. Trailing 2-0 before half time, and down to 10 men in Catalonia, Chelsea somehow staged a comeback after having just 28 percent of the ball., and it was the Brazilian who pulled the first decisive goal back.
Ramires displayed a sangfroid, of which Pelé or Romário would have been proud, deftly lobbing over the advancing Víctor Valdés. It was a moment of world-class technical precision that turned the tide against Barca. That the player had also assisted Drogba’s winner in the 1-0 home win just a week previously was now virtually irrelevant. His goal that famous night was a snapshot of his genuine talent as an elite box-to-box midfielder in world football. For this reason, Real Madrid are reportedly prepared to pay around £25million for his services this January. It is without doubt that the player nicknamed the ‘Blue Kenyan’ will keep on running.