Sergio Ramos is number 4 in 90min's Top 20 Greatest Footballers of the Decade series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next week.
During the introduction of his much-anticipated Amazon Prime docu-series El Corazón de Sergio Ramos, a voiceover from the Real Madrid and Spain captain tells viewers that his public image doesn't always reflect who he is, while he has never opened the doors to his private life before.
The series then proceeds to attempt to give a glimpse (albeit a highly manufactured and airbrushed glimpse) behind the scenes at home with one of the world's most recognisable, admired and notorious sporting personalities of the last decade.
After a spot of breakfast and face-painting session with the family at home, Ramos - wearing a white-spotted, zipped-up-to-the-Adam's apple tracksuit top under a grey blazer - speaks to camera, starting the sentence 'the public know me as...' before breaking off with a sheepish laugh, 'pues, no lo se' (well, I don't know).
I think he does know. He knows very well how he is perceived.
The public image that Ramos has cultivated - run, jump, headered, tackled, fouled, Panenka'd, sh*thoused, tattooed, teeth-whitened and sh*thoused some more over many years - is one the world of football and beyond can't get enough of.
For well over ten years, Ramos has been one of football's apex predators. One of the sport's finest players, an elite winner, leader and embracer of the celebrity that comes with the occupation.
For many, he is also The Big Bad of the beautiful game. Football's Sh*thouse-in-Chief.
The Sevilla-born star is the most sent-off player in both La Liga and Champions League history but has also scored more career goals than Andres Iniesta.
During Florentino Perez's first spell as Real Madrid president between 2000 and 2006, Los Blancos signed only three centre backs: Walter Samuel, Jonathan Woodgate and Ramos. Only one of those three was still there when Perez returned to lead the club again in 2009. For the president who had little time for the necessary evil of defending, Ramos was the perfect signing; a proper Galactico athlete, who transcends his position as a defender in a way few others can.
Ramos began the decade by becoming a World champion with Spain in the Vuvuzela-soundtracked World Cup in South Africa, topping Castrol's Performance Index for the tournament as La Roja overcame the Netherlands in the final - the match itself the type of war of attrition that would come to define the defender's career.
Nominated as one of Real Madrid's four captains the following season after conquering the world, Ramos was sent off for hacking at Lionel Messi (and then pushing international teammate Carles Puyol) in the crushing 5-0 home defeat by Barcelona in November 2010 that marked Jose Mourinho's extremely bad-tempered first Clasico. It was already his tenth red card for Real Madrid in fewer than five seasons. At time of writing, he has 19 reds and 164 yellows in La Liga.
Already a World Cup winner and two-time La Liga champion, 2012 became a defining year in Ramos' origin story, as the defender skied a decisive penalty in the Champions League semi-final against Bayern Munich in April. Two months later, the defender stepped forward in Spain's Euro 2012 semi-final against Portugal, dinking a Panenka down the middle past a helpless Rui Patricio, with the coolness of a man who has never suffered failure.
He told FourFourTwo: "When certain moments arrive, there are players who fortunately have that complete confidence in themselves, who are in a rich vein of form and want to face up to such responsibility. Throughout my career I've always been able to take in the situation and assume that responsibility.
"You always remember the pain and the negativity after something like that. It was more in honour of my mother and my sister, who are the two that always suffer most: they deserved an eternal moment to cherish from my career, and I think that was one."
For all Cristiano Ronaldo's shirtless posturing, Ramos was the key man in Real Madrid's Décima and Undécima Champions League titles, breaking Atletico Madrid hearts with a stoppage-time header in 2014 to take the game to extra-time (Real went on to win 4-1), while he opened the scoring with a similar goal two years later at San Siro against the same opponents - before also scoring in the penalty shootout.
In 2017, he became the first man to captain a side to back-to-back European titles (it would later become three) in the Champions League era as Real Madrid brushed aside Juventus in Cardiff.
The boy who, legend has it, once considered becoming a bullfighter celebrated by waving a matador's cape on the pitch at the Principality Stadium in Cardiff. It wasn't the first time he'd brought out his bizarrely choreographed routine for trophy celebrations. Bullfighting remains a highly controversial topic in Spain, with its popularity particularly low with the younger, more animal rights conscious youth. Ramos doesn't care.
"I feel a bond with that world because my family and my town have always been great bullfighting fans," he has said. "It's something you're born with. I do feel I have some 'matador' qualities."
In Kiev against Liverpool in 2018, as he collected his fourth Champions League crown, Ramos' coronation both as one of the all-time greatest players and biggest sh*thouses was confirmed as he tussled Mohamed Salah to the ground - injuring the Egyptian's shoulder (an action that launched a million memes), before apparently concussing goalkeeper Loris Karius in the 3-1 win.
His bullish and defiant responses to any suggestion of wrongdoing after the game kept the press and fans wide-eyed and entertained. Ramos' former teammates like Fernando Hierro and Pepe had developed reputations as masters of the dark arts but Ramos was on another level. He was not prepared to back down, or play nice off the pitch, well aware of how to use his sarcy wit in the press to dictate the headlines.
More than all that, though, he has been despised because he is just so bloody brilliant.
Since the turn of the decade, Ramos has won two La Liga titles, four Champions Leagues, four World Club Cups, the Copa del Rey twice (dropping one off a bus), the Euros and the World Cup.
For all his flaws and controversy, he will enter 2020 still at the pinnacle at football, named in FIFPro's World Team of the Year - somewhat questionably mind you, but still there.
The hair has changed, the teeth whitened, the beard styled and the tattoos added but Ramos is still the apex predator, still the box-office centre-back, still football's Big Bad, still one of the best around.
At the beginning of episode one in El Corazón de Sergio Ramos, there is also some B-roll of Madrid's famous Puerta del Sol square, showing the plaque that marks 'Km.0' (kilometre zero) from which all roads in Spain are measured. Ramos, for whatever else he might be, is 'kilometre zero' when comparing all other defenders, captains, villains and heroes.
Number 20 - Arjen Robben: The Flying Dutchman Who Became a Modern Legend at Bayern Munich
Number 19 - Mohamed Salah: The Humble King Who Conquered Rome and Took Liverpool By Storm
Number 18 - Sergio Aguero: The Man Who Painted Manchester Blue With One Kick of a Football
Number 17 - Manuel Neuer: The Bayern Munich & Germany Legend Who Revolutionised Goalkeeping
Number 16 - Eden Hazard: The Brilliant Belgian Who Mesmerised Fans Across the World
Number 15 - Zlatan Ibrahimovic: The Man Who Needs No Introduction
Number 14 - Toni Kroos: The Underrated Jahrhunderttalent Who Was There for the Biggest Occasions
Number 13 - Giorgio Chiellini: The Juventus Legend Who Has Always Found a Way to Win
Number 12 - Marcelo: From Favela Kickabouts Under Grandad's Watch to 4 Champions League Wins
Number 11 - Robert Lewandowski: Bayern Munich's Best Foreign Player & Europe's Most Underrated Star in History
Number 10 - Neymar Jr: Brazil's Generational Talent Who Dictated the Greatest Champions League Night in History
Number 9 - Gareth Bale: The Cursed Talent Who Went on to Conquer Europe Four Times
Number 8 - Dani Alves: The Maverick Who's Just Too Good to Be Copied
Number 7 - Franck Ribery: The Serial Entertainer Who Was Born to Win
Number 6 - Luis Suarez: The Uruguayan Heel Who Never Bit Off More Than He Could Chew
Number 5 - Andrés Iniesta: The Enigmatic Architect Behind the Best Barcelona Team in Modern History