MELBOURNE • Real Madrid captain and centre-back Sergio Ramos is "100 per cent committed" to the Spanish football club, new coach Rafa Benitez said yesterday, amid continued speculation that the Spain defender could be on his way to Manchester United.
The English side's manager, Louis van Gaal, hinted this week that he may be pursuing the 29-year-old Ramos, who has two years left on his Real contract but is said to be unhappy with the level of his wages.
Ramos could join United in a swop deal, with his Spain team-mate and goalkeeper David de Gea, 24, going the other way, according to media reports.
"De Gea is not our player and Ramos is our captain and a very important player for us," Benitez told a news conference while previewing today's International Champions Cup match against Manchester City at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. "I hope he's still here at the beginning of the season."
The former Liverpool manager added: "I want him to stay on, he's a fundamental player for all of us. It's clear to me and the club that he will remain 100 per cent committed to Real Madrid.
"I respect van Gaal and what matters to me is that Ramos stays here."
Real's Croatia midfielder Luka Modric also emphasised the key role Ramos that plays at the club.
"He's our captain and our leader both on and off the pitch," Modric said. "I think he'll stay because in my opinion he's the best defender in the world and he should be on the best team in the world.
"There's no need to ask him to stay because I'm certain that's what he wants to do."
Earlier, Benitez hailed Cristiano Ronaldo as the best striker in the world as he played down reports of tension between the pair during training sessions in Australia.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE