Paris (AFP) – Sergio Ramos, the former Real Madrid stalwart considered one of the best defenders in the world, has signed a two-year contract with Paris Saint-Germain, the French club said Thursday.

Ramos, 35, won the Champions League four times with Real and is a World Cup winner and a two-time champion of Europe with Spain.

The veteran, who has won a European record 180 caps and scored 23 goals for his country, arrives with PSG desperate to add experience to their squad for another assault on an elusive first Champions League title.

PSG sporting director Leonardo has also brought in Dutch midfield star Georginio Wijnaldum from Liverpool and Moroccan defender Achraf Hakimi from Italian champions Inter Milan and the club has been heavily linked with goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma, who will line up for Italy against England in Sunday’s Euro 2020 final.

The Qatari-owned club also hope the significant investment will persuade France striker Kylian Mbappe to sign a new deal beyond 2022.

“It’s a big change in my life, a new challenge and a day I shall never forget,” Ramos said in a PSG statement.

“I am proud to be a part of this very ambitious project and to join a team with great players. It’s a club which has already proved itself at the highest level with solid foundations. I want to continue to grow with Paris and help the team win titles.”

PSG lauded him as one of the world’s most decorated defenders, noting individual distinctions including UEFA naming him Europe’s best defender in 2017 and again in 2018.

– ‘Complete footballer’ –

“Sergio is a complete footballer, one of the best defenders in history. He is a born competitor, a leader and a great professional,” said PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, who saluted Ramos’ “wealth of experience and his ambitions (which) are in perfect harmony with those of the club.”

Ramos, who cut his teeth with Sevilla before joining Real in 2005, played almost 500 league games for Los Blancos, marshalling their defence for 16 seasons and winning La Liga five times.

He also scored some notable goals — not least his injury-time equaliser in the 2014 Champions League final against city rivals Atletico.

Real went on to win 4-1 to claim their tenth win in the competition and Ramos remained a mainstay of the side as they made it four continental titles in five seasons between 2016 and 2018 under French coach Zinedine Zidane. 

Ramos was remarkably consistent across his 16 seasons at the Bernabeu, with knee meniscus surgery midway through his final season last term his only lengthy absence throughout that time.

That spell on the sidelines put an end to a streak of 31 consecutive appearances in El Clasico against eternal La Liga rivals Barcelona and overall Ramos would play only 21 matches for Real in his final season.

On June 16, Real announced he would be leaving.

Ramos will continue to wear his habitual number four shirt at the Parc des Princes  which he says has become “part of me as a person as well as a professional.”

Ramos started out at his home-town side of Camas, just across the Guadalquivir river, on a pitch where now there is only dirt and wild flowers. 

“When he was three or four years old, he was already kicking balls out on the pitch,” former Camas club president Juan Luis Angulo recently recalled.

The young Ramos would go on to join Sevilla’s academy aged 12 and by 17 was knocking on the first team door before Real lured him away still aged just 19 for 27 million euros ($32 million dollars).