Madrid – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane says he will back his La Liga club captain Sergio Ramos if he decides to represent Spain at the Olympic Games later this year.
The defender who turns 34 next month has been chosen in Spain’s preliminary squad for the tournament.
Ramos is set to captain the team at the European Championship and has been playing for Real Madrid at his usual relentless pace, starting 30 games already this season.
But Zidane said he is not concerned about the potential knock-on effects of Ramos playing two major international tournaments after another gruelling campaign with Real Madrid.
The club is hoping to challenge for the Spanish title and the UEFA Champions League.
“Of course he should go if he wants to, I will support him.
“It’s very beautiful to play for your country, and especially for a player like him who has done what he has done in his career,” Zidane told a news conference ahead of his side’s La Liga match away to Levante on Saturday
Speaking in October, Ramos had said he was excited by the prospect of playing for Spain at the Games in Tokyo.
“It’s a lovely idea, an event that no-one could say `no’ to. But we will see what happens. I get emotional every time I put on a Spain shirt,” he said.
Ramos has never been a substitute since Zidane has been in charge.
The coach underlined the defender’s importance to his side by also expressing his desire for the captain to renew his contract which ends next year.
“Sergio is our captain, our leader, our reference point and he plays better from the start. It’s not in anyone’s interest for him to be on the bench.
“He is very important for every player in the team. It should be easy for him to get a new contract. I always want him in my team,” Zidane added.
Real Madrid lead the standings by one point over FC Barcelona after seeing their advantage at the top trimmed by last week’s surprise 2-2 draw at home to struggling Celta Vigo.
Their next opponents are 13th in the table but have an impressive record at their stadium, where they beat FC Barcelona 3-1 earlier this season, and Zidane is expecting a difficult match.
“Levante have earned 20 points out of the 29 they have this season at home and that tells you the type of game we are going to have: it will be demanding and difficult.
“And we will have to be well prepared if we want to put in a good performance,” he said.