What does the future hold for Aaron Ramsey?

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Aaron Ramsey. - REUTERS
Aaron Ramsey. - REUTERS

When Aaron Ramsey came on in the 118th minute of Rangers Europa League Final against Eintracht Frankfurt it felt he would be the one sure-fire certainty in the looming penalty shoot.

A big game player with vast experience, one who has had decisive moments in previous cup finals, not least in driving Arsenal to claim the FA Cup in 2014 and 2017 with winning goals against Hull City and Chelsea, this felt like his moment in a Rangers shirt.

And yet when those 10 spot-kicks were taken it was only Ramsey who missed, with a poor effort saved by Frankfurt goalkeeper Kevin Trapp. It happens. The best, most seasoned players miss from the spot. But for Ramsey, who was distraught and in tears afterwards, the timing could not have been worse.

Aaron Ramsey's miss was decisive. - Jose Manuel Vidal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
Aaron Ramsey's miss was decisive. - Jose Manuel Vidal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

When the midfielder arrived on loan from Juventus on January transfer deadline day, Ramsey was hailed by Rangers legend Ally McCoist as the club’s biggest signing since Paul Gascoigne. McCoist was not alone in claiming that. Many stated he was too good to play in Scotland although it was indicative as to where his career is at that the only formal offer Ramsey received from the Premier League was to join relegation strugglers Burnley.

But the move to Rangers has not worked out. Ramsey has played just 13 times in four months, with just nine of those starts, and struggled to make an impact. It has been indicative of his time that immediately after he arrived he was not fit to start the Old Firm derby against Celtic which ended in a 3-0 defeat and swung the title race in their favour.

As ever with Ramsey staying fit has been an issue and, for that, there has to be sympathy. He impressed in the Europa League quarter-final win over Braga but was injured again during the first-half of the Scottish Cup semi-final victory over Celtic and only made the bench in Seville despite starting the final three league games.

Within hours of the defeat Ramsey was named in the Wales squad for the crucial World Cup play-off next month, for a place in Qatar, against either Scotland and Ukraine. Rather like Gareth Bale, Wales’ other superstar player, his career is at a crossroads and also like Bale he gives the impression of performing better for his country than his club.

Aaron Ramsey (left) and Gareth Bale (right). - PA
Aaron Ramsey (left) and Gareth Bale (right). - PA

It fuels the belief that both are just far more comfortable with Wales and all of Ramsey’s best games in recent times – such as against Turkey in last summer’s European Championship and against the Czech Republic in a World Cup qualifier in October – have been in a Wales shirt.

Bale is 32 and out-of-contract at Real Madrid at the end of this season in a relationship that has turned viciously sour despite winning the Champions League four times with the Spanish giants, and potentially for a fifth time when they face Liverpool later this month.

Ramsey, at 31 more than a year younger, is similarly not wanted by Juventus who signed him after his contract was run down at Arsenal in 2019 meaning he became one of the biggest earners in world football. Ramsey is paid just under £400,000-a-week when all extras are taken into consideration.

Virtually all of his wages at Rangers, who are not paying a loan fee, are being subsidised by Juventus where he has one more year left on his contract and with a view to him not returning to Turin. It shows how desperate they were to move him on and coach Max Allegri has made it clear Ramsey is certainly not in his plans.

Juventus simply do not want him back and maybe their style of play, especially under Allegri, simply does not suit him. The last time he played 90 minutes for them was in January. January 2021 that is, while this season he has played just 111 minutes for the Italian side.

Aaron Ramsey failed to make an impact in Turin. - REUTERS
Aaron Ramsey failed to make an impact in Turin. - REUTERS

As with Bale in Madrid, although not quite as high profile, Ramsey has not hidden his dissatisfaction of the club he joined with such big hopes. In October he suggested his fitness was not a problem when “managed correctly” and he used his own personal fitness team to get ready for the Euros.

There is no option for Rangers to sign Ramsey permanently at the end of this season, not that they could do so anyway under their wage structure. Returning to Juventus would be an uncomfortable option given how they want him out especially as they are working hard to persuade Paul Pogba to rejoin them.

Rangers signed Ramsey for sound reasons and, who knows, he may play a decisive part in another cup final when they face Hearts in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday. He should be, physically at least, one of the fresher players given his limited involvement on Wednesday evening. It was a deal that made sporting as well as financial sense. But only if Ramsey could stay fit enough and, unfortunately, that just has not happened. Rangers, understandably, reasoned that the deal felt like a coup but also an opportunity to raise the club’s profile. Ramsey did not just that with his penalty miss but unfortunately not in the way that either he or Rangers dreamt of.

Cruelly it was the second Europa League final that has ended in crushing disappointment for him. His final game for Arsenal was set to be against Chelsea in Baku three years ago before, again, injury ruled him out.

If he plays on Saturday it will be Ramsey’s last game for Rangers. He needs to find another club. It means that if Wales get through to the World Cup in November they could be in the highly unusual situation of having their two most important players trying to ensure they have clubs and will play enough football before that tournament, in which they will be desperate to feature, begins. It could be Bale’s swansong. As for Ramsey he not only needs to secure another move but ensure he stays fit enough to be the player he can be again.

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