He might be public enemy number 1 in some parts of the world for his role in the injury to Egyptian star Mohamed Salah, but Spanish defender Sergio Ramos has been painted in a positive light by residents in Krasnodar, Russia.
A seven-floor mural of the Spanish captain has appeared in the city ahead of the arrival on Thursday of Ramos and his teammates to the Krasnodar region, where they will be based for this summer’s World Cup.
The football-themed artwork clearly met with the approval of the Spanish team, which posted a picture of it on their official Twitter account.
The warm welcome in southern Russia for Real Madrid defender Ramos will come in stark contrast to recent criticism from fans over his role in two controversial incidents in the Champions League final against Liverpool in Kiev on May 26.
Ramos has been painted as very much the villain after a tangle with Liverpool star Mohamed Salah led to the striker being forced off with a shoulder injury that has also left him racing to be fit for this summer’s World Cup with Egypt .
The Madrid defender, 32, also appeared to elbow Liverpool goalkeeper Loris Karius, reportedly causing concussion to the German and possibly playing a factor in calamitous mistakes the keeper later made to gift Real Madrid two goals in their 3-1 win.
Ramos has been branded a supervillain for both incidents and has even had a $1 billion lawsuit filed against him by an Egyptian lawyer distraught at the prospect of star striker Salah not being fit for the World Cup. Liverpool fans have meanwhile targeted the Spaniard with a petition calling for UEFA to ban him which has reached hundreds of thousands of signatures.
The defender himself trolled Reds fans over his supposed villainy, rejecting his role in the Salah injury and sarcastically saying that he was waiting for supporters to accuse him of giving striker Roberto Firmino a cold “because a drop of my sweat landed on him."
Ramos won the World Cup with Spain in South Africa in 2010, and will be looking to add to that title in Russia this summer.
The team will be based at the academy of Russian Premier League team FC Krasnodar. The facilities are seen by many as the best of any on offer in Russia, and the players will also have the balmy Black Sea climate to enjoy.
Spain kick off their World Cup campaign against Iberian rivals Portugal in Sochi on June 15, before taking on Iran and Morocco in their remaining Group B fixtures.