There is no city more devout than Seville, where Holy Week transcends the religious to become the central axis of life for part of the year. The cycle of the Passion of Christ floods its streets with the Stations of the Cross as the main iconography. The arrest, the trial, the prayer, the scourging, the crucifixion, the descent from the cross, the resurrection... All the representations of the last moments of Jesus' life are lived with a special passion among the corners of the capital, because there is no city more passionate than Seville. And in Seville, the only thing that compares his passion to that of religion is football. Sergio Ramos knows it, back at the Sánchez Pizjuán after 18 years of more hate than love with Nervión. Today they host Real Madrid for the first time, their Real Madrid, still facing their own Passion.

The streets of Seville that drink more Sevilla red than Betis green do not forget two dates that completely channel the Passion of Sergio Ramos. August 31, 2005 and January 12, 2017. The first marks the payment of the release clause of the young centre-back, who at the age of 19 swapped Nervión for the Santiago Bernabéu for 27 million euros. The second was even more controversial. Twelve years after his departure, in a visit by Madrid to the Pizjuán for the round of <> of the Copa del Rey, Ramos scored a Panenka-style penalty and celebrated by facing the Biris and apologizing to the rest of the fans.

Those two days and what they generated between the player and the stands had their hatching on September 4 of this year, when Sevilla announced his return. Schism in the club, in Nervión and in the city. "There's always been talk of that love-hate relationship. There were some frictions, but everything is solved with what Ramos is doing. He's being professional. The Sevilla fans are not resentful," Andrés Palop, former captain of the team, admits to this newspaper. "If he's sincere, the crowd appreciates it. He is passionate about the good and the bad. If the player identifies with the club, the fans give him everything," insists the goalkeeper.

Inside Sevilla, calm after the storm. "He's one of us," José María del Nido Carrasco, son of the former president and current first vice-president of the entity, told EL MUNDO. "He has arrived with all the enthusiasm and desire. And the fans have understood it from the first moment and are looking forward to enjoying it. It's going to help us a lot," he concludes.

José María del Nido, the president who watched the defender's departure to Madrid and who was part of the war of versions that followed Ramos' farewell in 2005, also answers the phone. "Sevilla and Sergio deserved to meet again. All those strains that may have existed are over when you put the shirt back on," he explains to EL MUNDO. "I haven't spoken to him, but I see him excited and strong. He is a magnificent addition and has given up astronomical amounts to retire at the club he loves. Anyone who has had a problem with him has turned the page," said the manager, who is working on his return to the top of the club.

"I didn't want him to come back"

But on the street the debate exists and the pages have not yet been completely turned. A walk around the Pizjuán is enough to discover the feelings of the different generations that fill the stadium every week. "I didn't want him to come back, my opinion has been very bad about him all these years, I didn't see that he respected the fans, Sevilla and his players, he came here to show off. But when he asked for forgiveness, I began to empathize with him. He's showing that his shirt hurts," says Silvia, a 34-year-old postdoctoral researcher. For Paco, a 64-year-old retiree, Ramos "hasn't acted well." "He's done and said a lot of things that were out of place knowing he was going to upset the fans. I didn't want him to come back. I liked that he at least apologized, but there have been a lot of things over many years that he has done wrong, and many of them were not spontaneous."

The road around Nervión divides opinions a little, from Luis de Morales Street to Eduardo Dato Avenue. Such is the Passion. "It's good for me to be back. I don't think that what he did that day at the Pizjuán was in bad faith, but a one-off reaction. He has given up a lot of money to come and I thank him for that," said Enrique, a 55-year-old military officer. Alejandro, a 21-year-old student, agrees: "My opinion of him was not very good because I grew up among insults and whistles against him, but he decided to lower his salary and asked for forgiveness, which is what we needed. All to get back to the club of his life. He's the leader of the defense." Javier, a 27-year-old researcher at the CSIC, is also happy: "I liked that he was back, it was necessary. They knew it was going to be controversial, but I did want it back. I didn't need to forgive him if he wanted to break his face over his shirt."

"I was thrilled at his presentation"

In the Sevilla supporters' clubs, the pain and feelings of the two decades of confrontation between Ramos and the stands are still on the surface. "It didn't hurt me that he left, but the form didn't hurt me," says Carlos, 38, president of the Peña Sevillista Giraldillo. "I didn't hate it, but I thought it was clumsy. Very torpid. That day (the day of the goal at the Pizjuán) you could see his ego," he acknowledges. But seeing him in the shirt changed everything: "I was emotional at his presentation. I think he had the backbone of Navas and Puerta, who are friends of his and have been legends at the club, and he has come to try to become that."

Joaquín, 40, from the Mi Tío Tuve Razón supporters' club, is harsher with him: "At first I was angry about his departure and then I was indifferent. But he started wanting to face the fans, to want to prove that he was right... And that indifference turned into tyranny. It gave me courage. I didn't know how to measure up. I didn't want him to come back, it seems that the fan has a short memory... The market gives you enough options to wait for a player who has half the crowd against him," he criticizes. Joaquín admits that "I'm never going to whistle at a Sevilla player", "but I don't like him". "Performance will tell."

Within the passion of the fans there is also room to put things into perspective, as Enrique, 57 years old and a worker in the pharmaceutical industry, does. "Who isn't offered two more dollars to change jobs and doesn't do it? This hypocrisy is deeply rooted in this environment," he reflects on his move to Madrid. "Facing the stands has to be understood in a certain context. All this is intoxicated by a manipulation that is made of his sale", he insists, and believes that we are already seeing "the wisdom of bringing him because of what he brings to the team and the sports dressing room and humanly speaking".

The street speaks and the lawn of the Pizjuán awaits the definitive Palm Saturday. His Seville and its Madrid.

  • Sevilla FC
  • Real Madrid
  • Sergio Ramos