Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos heaped praise on manager Zinedine Zidane after the side clinched their 34th La Liga title on Sunday.

Karim Benzema scored twice in a 2-1 victory over Villarreal which sealed Real Madrid’s title with one game to spare. Benzema’s double included a second-half penalty at the empty Alfredo di Stefano Stadium as Madrid moved seven points clear to end Barcelona’s two-year hold on the trophy.

Barca had to prevail against Osasuna at home and hope Madrid slipped up but their fading challenge ended with a 2-1 defeat at Camp Nou, despite a brilliant Lionel Messi free-kick.

This was Zidane’s second La Liga title and 11th overall as coach after 209 games in charge of Real Madrid.

“He’s key, he’s the captain of the ship and he’s the one who has to stand up and make the difference amongst everyone else,” Ramos was quoted as saying by Real Madrid after the game.

“He’s always been someone who has placed his trust in his players and we feel really well supported by him. We believe in him and his work. Everything he touches turns to gold. Long may it last and may people appreciate what a great person he is. He’s a unique coach.”

For Ramos, this was his fifth La Liga since joining Madrid in 2005. There is uncertainty over the 34-year-old’s future, with his contract due to expire next year but Real Madrid president Sergio Perez also believes Ramos will end his career at Madrid.

The defender said he would like to retire with the newly-crowned Spanish champions.

“Whatever the president wants,” he said.

“That’s not down to me. I’m delighted to be here and everyone knows that. I’d like to end my career here. I’m happy and relaxed. I hope that I can hang my boots up here.”

Ramos said the hard work the team put in, with a desire to win every game after the league resumed from the coronavirus-forced hiatus, was the key.

“Barcelona held a two-point advantage and, in our heads, there was no margin for error and that’s what we went out and proved. That’s now 34 league titles for the club and it’s a fifth for me personally. Our consistency has been the key. This will be remembered as the coronavirus league season and let’s hope there aren’t any more like it,” he added.

(with AFP inputs)