Real Madrid boss Santiago Solari has paid tribute to Sergio Ramos ahead of the captain making his 600th appearance for the club.
Ramos will reach the landmark on Wednesday night when the Champions League holders face Ajax in the first leg of their last-16 tie in Amsterdam.
The 32-year-old defender will move one game behind club legends Fernando Hierro and Paco Gento in the all-time appearance list at Madrid, and fourth behind Manolo Sanchis (710), Iker Casillas (725) and Raul Gonzalez (741).
Ramos has been pivotal in Madrid’s dominance of the Champions League in recent years, with Los Blancos winning an unprecedented successive three titles.
Solari told UEFA.com: “He has a wonderful personality. He’s really competitive and that’s why he’s played this many games. This historic Madrid side has the stamp of his character. Let’s hope we can enjoy him for plenty more games.
“He has been, and remains, a fantastic captain. I think it’s brilliant how he carries out his job as leader, which isn’t an easy one.”
Real head into the match full of confidence after a 3-1 win in the Madrid derby at the weekend, which was their sixth victory in a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions.
“I hope we produce a performance as serious as we did three days ago (at Atletico). We have great memories of this stadium. Let’s hope that continues tomorrow. We’re approaching it with maximum respect,” said Solari.
Ajax are in the round of 16 for the first time since the 2005-06 season. The Dutch side have lost their last six games against Madrid, conceding 20 times and scoring just twice, which is an indication of the task they face over the two legs.
Their form domestically has also dipped since they resumed after the winter break, with Erik ten Hag’s team losing 6-2 at rivals Feyenoord last month.
“It’s up to us to pick ourselves up,” said the Ajax boss. “We have to play our own game on Wednesday because it does not matter who your opponents are – you saw how we did against Bayern Munich (1-1 and 3-3 in the group stage). We have to focus on our football and enjoy it.
“This opponent is a challenge. We’re looking forward to it, we’re confident we can take them on. We’re physically fit and with the right team spirit, we can go a long way.
“Frenkie de Jong is fit – he will be even more motivated as a future Barcelona player to play against Real Madrid.”
Solari could name the same team that beat Atletico Madrid 3-1 at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday.