MADRID (REUTERS) - Decorated Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos has dubbed 2014 "the best year of my life" after playing a key role for the Spanish giants as they swept to four titles including a record-extending 10th European crown.
A no-nonsense centre back whose strength in the air regularly yields goals, Ramos scooped the player of the tournament award at the Club World Cup after scoring in the semi-final win against Cruz Azul and the victory over San Lorenzo in Saturday's final.
The outstanding moment on the pitch in a year during which he also became a father for the first time was his last-gasp equaliser against Atletico Madrid in May's Champions League final before Real went on to beat their city rivals 4-1 after extra time.
His goals against Cruz Azul, San Lorenzo and Atletico were typically athletic headers from set pieces and cemented the Seville-born 28-year-old's status as a hero to Real fans.
The heavily-tattooed Ramos was also an important member of the Spain team that won back-to-back European Championship crowns in 2008 and 2012 and a maiden World Cup trophy in between.
Spain's abject failure in their title defence at the World Cup in Brazil in June was a major blemish but Ramos nonetheless declared 2014 as "the most important of my life, both professionally and on the personal side".
"I had the unique experience of becoming a father and in the professional sphere I was able to win four titles and that Champions League we all wanted so much," he told the radio station Cadena Ser late on Sunday. "To win awards is gratifying but it is down to the work of my team-mates and if an individual player shines it is only thanks to their efforts."
Ramos, whose partner is glamorous Spanish television journalist Pilar Rubio, praised Real coach Carlo Ancelotti, with whom he has a much more harmonious relationship than with the Italian's predecessor Jose Mourinho.
The defender's contract expires in June 2017 and he told Cadena Ser he wanted to remain at the world's richest club by income, having joined in August 2005, "for many years" and there was no need to rush talks on an extension.