England fans booing of 'most-hated' Sergio Ramos a testament to his class

Mark OgdenSenior Writer, ESPN FC4 Minute Read

England 1-2 Spain: La Roja come back

Marcus Rashford's opener was offset by goals from Saúl Ñíguez and Rodrigo to give Spain a 2-1 away-win over England.

So who would come out on top of a poll to decide the most unpopular player in world football right now? Well if the vote was held at Wembley on Saturday evening, Sergio Ramos would have won by a landslide.

The Spain and Real Madrid captain was booed every time he touched the ball during his country's 2-1 Nations League victory over England in London -- not that he is likely to have been remotely distracted by the jeers emanating from the stands.

Ever since his clash with Mohamed Salah during last season's Champions League final left the Liverpool forward with a shoulder injury that forced him out of that game and impacted his contribution to Egypt's World Cup campaign, Ramos has been Public Enemy No. 1 in the eyes of many football supporters.

His subsequent clash with Liverpool keeper goalkeeper Loris Karius in Kiev, which has led to claims that the incident resulted in the German suffering concussion, only served to add to Ramos' reputation as the player that fans love to hate more than any other.

But unless the 81,000 fans inside Wembley on Saturday night were all Liverpool supporters, it seems as though Ramos is now becoming a verbal punch-bag simply because he is prepared to cross the line for the sake his team.

Ramos doesn't help himself at times. He has always been unrepentant when it comes to his on-field controversies -- he has 24 red cards during his career, so there have been a few -- but are we now at a point where the booing and jeering is becoming disrespectful to one of the greatest players of his generation?

Greatness is not just about scoring goals and individual brilliance as displayed by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Every team would love to have a Messi or Ronaldo, of course, but they would also embrace the prospect of having Ramos at the heart of their defence too.

But he has become the player that fans love to hate because he plays the game in a way that is becoming increasingly rare in that he is uncompromising, rugged, determined and not averse to blurring the lines when it comes to doing all he can to win for his team.

Sergio Ramos gestures to the crowd after Spain beat England in the UEFA Nations League.Getty Images

And is that such a bad thing? Rules may not be there to be broken, but they can be bent at times and nobody does that better than Ramos with his shirt-tugging or constant discussions, or arguments, with officials.

There is too much focus on the negative side of the 32-year-old's game without a fair assessment of what he brings to the Real and Spain sides that he has become crucial to.

When he was suspended for the second leg of Real's Champions League quarterfinal against Juventus last season, Real almost crashed out of the competition after conceding three early goals against the Italian champions.

Raphael Varane, heralded as one of the world's best defenders after helping France win the World Cup, looked lost against Juve without Ramos alongside him.

Whether he is playing for Spain or Real, Ramos brings organisation and solidity to the defence, and the never-say-die spirit that was typified by his crucial equalising goal, three minutes into stoppage time against Atletico Madrid, during the 2014 Champions League final in Lisbon, which Real went on to win.

But just like John Terry before him -- another divisive figure, but one loved by his own team's supporters -- people tend to focus on Ramos' shortcomings or failings.

Ask anyone to nominate their most prominent memory of Terry's career, it would probably be his penalty miss for Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final against Manchester United.

Similarly, Ramos' glittering career threatens to be defined by his clash with Salah in Kiev and the fall-out which continues to filter out months later.

But the booing at Wembley suggested that he has now gone past the point of no return when it comes to his reputation among the football public. He is now the player in the role of villain and he is stuck with it.

However, he has four Champions League winners' medals, a World Cup, two European Championships, four La Liga titles and countless other honours to reflect upon, so it's unlikely that he will be losing much sleep over his unpopularity.

He may deserve more respect, but that is one thing he's likely not to win.