It was the summer of 2008. Arsenal and Manchester United had found themselves in a one-on-one match-up for the signature of Cardiff City’s 17-year-old Welsh midfield hotshot, Aaron Ramsey. As things were panning out, the Manchester club looked almost certain to pin Arsenal into submission and win the “title”.
But at the count of two, Arsenal somehow broke the cover, picked the Welshman and his family up on a private jet and flew off to Switzerland. Well, on some levels, this is what happened.
"He [Arsene Wenger] did a lot to try and get me to this club," Ramsey revealed, in a recent interview with Sky Sports.
"As a 17-year-old, flying out on a private jet to his hotel (in Switzerland for Euro 2008) was surreal but I think I made the right decision.”
"I just felt a bit more wanted by Arsenal and by the boss." he continued.
It was pretty evident that the manager held the Welshman in highest regard when he was directly handed over the No.16 shirt vacated by Mathieu Flamini, a number usually given to a first-team ready player.
Switching to right back for the last 30 minutes vs Sunderland in 2013 after Carl Jenkinson received marching orders and help preserve the 1-0 advantage, playing in a double pivot at the base of the midfield, playing effortlessly on either flanks, playing just off the striker and for Wales on the left side of the midfield three employed by manager Chris Coleman; Aaron is quite literally the Rahul Dravid of the footballing world in terms of versatility.
Despite a slew of muscular injuries and that horrific Ryan Shawcross tackle hampering his exponential progress, Ramsey was never really allowed to doubt his potential and future at the club by Arsene Wenger. Le Professeur offered him an extension against all the logic of offering extensions to in-form players, while he was still recovering from that gruesome double fracture in his lower right leg.
Ramsey slowly started reciprocating the faith shown in him, and hit top gear in the 2013-14 season when he finished the season with 16 goals and 8 assists and helped Arsenal throw the monkey of a major title off their back, when he smashed in the winning goal in the FA Cup final against Hull City at Wembley, and rightfully earned the Arsenal Player of the Season award.
With an engine good enough to run up and down the pitch for as long as the team needs, a physique good enough to shrug defenders off at ease, strong tackling skills, brilliant technique and silky skills to get past defenders.
An eye for a goal from any distance, angle - best demonstrated by his sumptuous rocket vs Galatasaray, accuracy of passes - be it for a player just standing next to him or for someone signalling for a long ball at the other end of the pitch, and not to mention his killer looks - he has absolutely everything in his locker, except maybe, hamstrings to last a season.
Having inspired Wales to Euro 2016 qualification, the indefatigable Welshman continued to run the show by assisting 4 and scoring 1 goal as the Dragons were agonisingly beaten at the semi-final stage, a game for which he was suspended having accumulated his second yellow card in the quarter-finals. He was named in the Team of the Tournament along with fellow team-mate Joe Allen for his herculean efforts.
Playing on the flanks reduces the space available for a player to work with, ergo when they come back into their more favoured central midfield position after a spell on the wings, they get twice as much space to play the ball, thereby improving their game, at least theoretically twice as much.
This is one of the reasons Ramsey has been continuously deployed on the flanks, along with many others recently, including Mesut Ozil.
Aaron himself is, self-admittedly, frustrated with the role of a winger, but going by the track record of Wenger’s belief in his abilities, knowledge about the qualities he possesses and how to harness them optimally not least his own wealth of experience in man-management, the decision-making should better be left to him, for he knows what’s best for the club and the player.
Wales manager Chris Coleman says Aaron Ramsey is a talent worthy of "any team on the planet”.
"Take him out of any team and it's a loss," said Coleman.
"That's not a biased opinion because I'm a Welshman and we all love Rambo. I'm looking at it clinically. Playing in tournament [Euro 2016] against the top teams, he was head and shoulders above.”
"In my personal opinion there's not a team on the planet he couldn't play for." proudly he said, probably unintentionally inviting a scout or two from each of Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich amongst other top teams to the Emirates.
Arsene Wenger has described Ramsey as a "complete midfielder," and stated,
"I was a midfielder, and I would have loved to have had what he has. He can defend, he can attack, he can score goals. What more do you want?"
To such levels he has taken his game that it led Steven Gerrard to come out last year and label him the “best-attacking player in the League.” High praise indeed, especially when they come from one of the best central midfielders of their playing days themselves.
Be careful what you wish for
He is often criticised for his wayward shooting and misplaced passes, but he’s still only 25 years old – 26 next month, and is at about the perfect age to start hitting peak. All he needs is a little show of confidence and faith from the fans, who always seem to find a way to pick on him both before and after a game.
At present, the only thing that is hindering the Welshman’s rise to the levels of the likes of Toni Kroos, Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic is a long injury-free period and playing consistently in the centre of the park.
Players of the ability and versatility of Aaron Ramsey don’t occur too often, and must be handled with extreme care; for once they are lost, you’ll have nobody but yourselves to blame when he goes to a club where fans shower him with unconditional love and he starts taking the world by storm.