Daily Mail journalist Rik Sharma profiles Ramires, Chelsea’s big-game Brazilian…
Ramires is a divisive midfielder. While all of us appreciate his willingness to run through walls for the shirt, others chastise him for his erratic passing and errant decision making.
For every glorious vignette – and who could forget that chip which sailed mere centimetres over the outstretched arm of Victor Valdes, before nestling sweetly in Barcelona’s net? – there is a head-in-hands moment waiting to happen.
Ramires’s entire performance against Aston Villa away last season (all 44 minutes of it before he was sent off) verged on unwatchable. Late tackles, high feet, being dispossessed too easily, it highlighted his worst traits. Indeed, for months after his arrival many Chelsea fans were unsure of him. His passing in particular stood out as weak for a centre-midfielder, and even his energy seemed dampened by the weight of trying to adjust to the English game.
The question is: Does Jose Mourinho believe Ramires’s strengths outweigh his weaknesses?
After that shaky start he found his feet and began to shine. Although he has a slight build, he goes into tackles like a runaway freight train and is game for a scrap. His determination and work-rate is second to none – the Brazilian harries and hustles opponents and is a true box-to-box player.
When Ramires picks up the ball and drives at defenders he is hard to handle. Lightning quick, he is a useful attacking tool as well as a defensive breaker. His ability to transition from defence to attack will appeal to Mourinho. He is also versatile – we’ve seen him deployed on the right flank too. Admittedly, this is not a position he is wholly comfortable in, particularly when Chelsea have a lot of the ball.
But if the Blues are up against it and the opposition have a particularly dangerous left winger, he can be relied upon to track back and do a defensive role from higher up the pitch. He is not currently in the Brazil set-up, but that’s due to red-tape (and, if you believe Ramires’s wife, the mafia-like nature of the Brazilian FA) rather than a reflection on his talent.
Funnily enough, Ramires would have been a perfect fit for the 4-3-3 Mourinho used to deploy at Chelsea. But in the 4-2-3-1 which we played last season and Mourinho often used at Madrid, Ramires will find it harder to hold down a regular spot.
Unless he becomes more consistent when passing the ball, he will need to be played alongside a more technically adroit partner, which would make him the more defensive of the pair. And to be deployed strictly as an enforcer would partially prevent him from surging forward and joining attacks.
In Chelsea’s squad – and even in the Premier League – he is a unique option who offers something a bit different to the rest. Ramires is the sort of player who can turn a game in a flash and at his best would be an instant first choice.
If he can play at a high level, he will be given and will deserve one of the two central midfield roles. But if his game remains erratic, don’t be surprised to see Michael Essien picked ahead of him on occasion, or Ramires shunted out to the right. Like so many other players in this squad, Ramires’s fate remains in his own hands.