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Real Madrid's Ramos cancels conference to avoid speculation over future - sources

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Sergio Ramos cancelled a news conference he was due to hold ahead of Spain's match with Germany to avoid adding to speculation about his Real Madrid future, sources have told ESPN.

The national team captain was due to speak to the media in Seville on Monday alongside coach Luis Enrique, the day before a UEFA Nations League game which Spain must win to progress to the competition's final phase.

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Ramos -- who missed two penalties in Spain's 1-1 draw with Switzerland on Saturday -- was replaced at the conference by Manchester City midfielder Rodri.

Sources told ESPN that Ramos preferred to focus on the Germany match and the player himself had chosen not to appear at the news conference.

There was a concern that the defender would face repeated questioning about his contractual situation at Real Madrid, which could feed rumours about his future and even affect negotiations with the club.

Luis Enrique, asked if Ramos was the best in the world after the two missed penalties, said that his job was to support his players.

"I don't know... What I did is what any coach would do, which is defend his players," the manager said. "We know where we are and what happens with the national team, we're subject to criticism and praise, it's logical. We have to accept both sides. After that, if he's the best or the worst... I think professionals are judged by results and Sergio's are there, they're convincing, he makes mistakes like we all do but I think they're beyond reproach."

There has been persistent speculation over Ramos' next move at club level.

His Real Madrid contract expires in June 2021, meaning that he will be free to speak to rival clubs from Jan. 1.

Luis Enrique said he would not offer advice to Ramos.

"If anyone has the necessary experience to deal with this personal situation it's Sergio, the same goes for Busquets, Koke, the players with most experience," he said. "They don't need advice. During a player's career there are moments when a contract is coming to an end, you renew or not, you have to look for a team... You have to know how to manage it. Ramos looks the same to me as the first day we joined the National Team, with the same enthusiasm to lead, to compete and to win."

Luis Enrique said he welcomed the questions about his star player.

"It's not good or bad, or new, it is what it is. It's what it means to have players of that level, with that career, in terms of performance and titles. We love having players of that level. A lot of controversy, it's normal. It's not surprising. When it isn't one thing, it's another. It's normal there's pressure around. You can like it or not, but if you want to be a national team player or coach you have to accept that this is the game."

ESPN reported at the start of November that the parties had begun initial talks about a renewal, with both intending to reach an agreement on an extension.

The stumbling block has been the structure of that new deal as Ramos, 34, would like to stay at the Bernabeu until 2024.

Sources have told ESPN the club would not be opposed to that, but are yet to decide whether to push for year-on-year extensions, as tends to be the case for players over 30, or make an exception for Ramos given his special status.

Real Madrid's financial situation, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the redevelopment of the Bernabeu, is also a factor and it would benefit the club to postpone certain payments until a later date.

ESPN reported last week that the club had decided to present a second set of pay cuts to the first team squad after an initial round were agreed in April, once this season's budget had been approved.