ENGINE MAN: Ramires in action for Chelsea (PA)
JOSE MOURINHO and his recent predecessors at Chelsea have all been lucky to count on the relentless energy of Ramires, a player who looks like he could play three matches straight without feeling the slightest stitch.
The 26-year-old Brazil international has been an unqualified success at the Blues since his 2010 move to Stamford Bridge from Benfica in a deal reportedly worth £18.3m. Former manager Carlo Ancelotti got his man and Ramires has remained a key player in midfield ever since.
His speed and drive in the centre of the park are much admired throughout the football world, and Premier League opponents may just have got used to seeing him blur past as they catch their breath back.
Ramires’ contribution to Chelsea’s success in the last three years has been astounding. Although the Blues last won the league crown the season before Ramires arrived, the midfield dynamo and his surging, lung-busting runs have proved integral to his team winning the 2012 Champions League and Europa League in May.
And who could forget his chipped beauty against Barcelona at the Nou Camp as Chelsea conquered the Catalan giants in the semi-finals over two legs on their way to lifting Europe’s premier club competition?
Famed for his beaming, broad smile, Ramires cuts a quiet figure who prefers to let his football do the talking.
Nonetheless, he has no qualms about saying what his immediate motivations are this season ahead of the 2014 World Cup in his native Brazil.
“Every competition is very important, but it is true that the Premier League is missing from my CV,” Ramires told Chelsea’s Official Match Day Programme.
“It would be important to win the Premier League not only for myself, but for the club to get its hands on the trophy again after a few years without it.
MIGHTY MIDFIELDER: Ramires takes on Newcastle's Chiek Tiote (PA)
“I hope we can win every competition. However, for me personally, this would be a great feeling.”
The tireless runner added: “In the Premier League, you depend only on yourself, your team. If we do well, we’ll add up the points at the end of the season and, hopefully, be the best team.
“I believe we are doing well at the moment we’ve got a great chance this year.
“We have great players, an excellent coach and wonderful support from the fans. We have everything in place – hopefully, we will get there.”
Ramires has good reason to be optimistic at this early stage of the season, despite Chelsea not occupying top spot after 10 games being played. Mourinho’s men enjoyed a perfect October, winning all six matches in the Premier League, League Cup and Champions League, the highlight being the 2-1 home win against Manchester City at the end of the month, when striker Fernando Torres came alive to slay their title rivals at the game’s death.
However, there is much work ahead – Chelsea, in second place, still need overhaul to Arsenal who lead on 25 points, five ahead of the Blues. Moreover, Ramires and his team-mates will require full focus to avoid any further slip ups like their surprise 2-0 defeat to Newcastle at the beginning of November, which led to Mourinho castigating his players.
Looking ahead to the rest of a hectic season that appears to have a wide-open title race, Ramires knows what he must do to ensure Chelsea can celebrate come next May.
“I would like to score even more this year”, he said, “but the most important thing is to help the team to win more games, and then, hopefully, more trophies.”