Carlos Queiroz stopped on the way out of the Kazan Arena and embraced Sergio Ramos before continuing towards the bus, which was still parked at one end. As the Iran manager departed, the Spain captain gave a knowing look, while someone spluttered: “And now he hugs you!” That drew an ironic smile. “At half-time he gave me a hug too and asked me how I am, we have a good relationship, so that’s why it surprises me that he then says things,” Ramos replied. “Like Diego Maradona, the things he says don’t make any sense.”
The things they said had been about him and were not entirely complimentary – something Ramos attributed to their desire to be talked about and something to which he now responded in the moments after Spain’s 1-0 victory when Iran’s defensive, physical approach and alleged gamesmanship had become a topic for discussion. If Ramos was relatively gentle with Queiroz considering the Iran coach had brought up the fact that he had injured Mohammed Salah, with Maradona he hit where it hurt.
Maradona had praised Diego Godín, suggesting that while Ramos gets more attention the real star is the Uruguayan. Ramos, he said, is not a “crack”. Asked about those comments now, Ramos replied: “Maradona is a great, he is a crack and I respect him so I’m not going judge his personal opinion. I think he is a crack but Argentinian football knows that Maradona is light years behind the best Argentinian player – who for me is Leo Messi.”
So that was Maradona. As for Queiroz, it started with Dani Carvajal. After the game, Spanish television asked the right-back rather pointedly, indignantly even, about the way their opponents had gone about their task. “What Iran did is not football, it is disloyal,” Carvajal said. “On a tactical level, sitting deep, committing fouls is part of the game,” he explained, “but wasting time, faking injury, pretending you’re hurt, is bad for football and the referee has to cut that out. For me, it’s not football, it’s unfaithful [to the game], but that’s down to each individual and their conscience.”
Ramos then said: “I’m not going to judge, it’s part of football. If they go out to waste time, that’s their problem. We like to win a different way. It is true that the referee allowed everything one way – for them – and blew almost all of our [challenges] as fouls.”
When Carvajal’s words were relayed to him, especially the use of disloyal, Queiroz asked: “Carvajal said that?”
“That’s not true,” he continued. “There were two teams fighting hard, strong contact, and our players needed [medical] attention. If you come to the clinic tomorrow you will see that we have lost two players – and there was not even a yellow card given. I’m not complaining but that is a reality.
“I recommend that Carvajal looks at his teammate who put an Egyptian player out of the World Cup.”
Asked if he was criticising Ramos, Queiroz responded: “No. I’m just saying that if he criticises Iranian players it would be good for him to cast his eyes on his teammates.” The Iran coach was then asked if he was saying Ramos had deliberately injured Salah. “I’m not saying anything,” he replied, “I’m just recommending that he looks at his own teammates. Ramos is a great player and there’s no problem. Sergio is a player I tried to sign at Madrid, I fought to bring him there.”
“I know, I know,” Ramos said. “That’s why I’m surprised by what he said.” He was surprised too by what Queiroz did next.