Spain captain Sergio Ramos said the pain of exiting the World Cup to Russia will motivate him to stay with the national team up until the 2022 tournament in Qatar — even if at 36 by that stage he is sporting a white beard.
Andres Iniesta, 34, and Gerard Pique, 31 — who won the World Cup alongside Ramos in 2010 — have already confirmed that they are leaving the national setup following a third straight disappointment at an international tournament, with other members of Spain’s golden generation including David Silva, 32, and Pepe Reina, 35, also expected to bow out now.
However, 32-year-old Ramos said he plans to keep adding to his tally of 156 senior international caps, and told reporters in the Luzhniki stadium mixed zone that he was positive about the younger players coming through the ranks.
“I am not in favour of many changes,” Ramos said. “This is not the end of a cycle, Pique and Iniesta are players who have been very important, but other people are coming up strongly from below. This team has a very good youth system, players with a lot of personality. I would like to keep going many more years. I am leaving this World Cup with a terrible pain. I feel obliged to reach Qatar with a white beard.”
Fernando Hierro is not expected to continue as coach ahead of the UEFA Nations League, although Ramos praised how the former Spain and Real Madrid player had dealt with a job he found himself doing unexpectedly just days before the tournament began.
“We are proud of the coach,” he said. “It fell to him in a delicate moment, and we should be thankful that he had the courage to take it on. He did very well, despite the results. I’ve always thought that in football the coaches end up being ex-players. In this sense we were very comfortable with Fernando. It does not depend on us, but we would not mind if Hierro continued. As captain I just want the best for Spanish football.”
Spain made more than 1,000 passes against Russia while creating very few clear scoring chances, again opening up a debate over sticking with possession-based approach which brought three straight international tournament victories between 2008 and 2012.
“In the end each person has their own different opinion.” Ramos said. “We have had this philosophy for many years, and comparisons with our best national team of all time are difficult. Football is about results, and they mark everything. I would have taken winning the group, playing as we played.”