Why Aaron Ramsey would be the perfect partner for Cristiano Ronaldo at Juventus
Cristiano Ronaldo has played alongside Ryan Giggs at Manchester United and Gareth Bale at Real Madrid, but with Aaron Ramsey set to join Juventus in the summer, he could be the best Welsh partner yet for the Portuguese talisman.
Ramsey is set to leave Arsenal after more than a decade of frustrating service. His performances and contribution to the cause deserve much more than the gratitude he has been offered by the fans and the board. And while the club will forever hold a place in his heart, his exit will leave him with a bitter taste in his mouth.
Catalyst to success
The creative midfielder has contributed key goals in key games, and proved to be the catalyst in the FA Cup triumphs of 2014, 2015 and 2017, twice scoring the winning goal. An easy scapegoat for supporters as Arsene Wenger's inconsistent side stumbled in the latter years of the manager's tenure, Ramsey cut an increasingly isolated figure at the club.
But his departure will be their loss.
There is no doubt that Ramsey is technically a world-class player, and he has produced all the potential that he showed when Wenger went out of his way to sign him from Cardiff City ahead of Manchester United back in 2008. Wenger planned to build a team around him in the long-term, but the subsequent struggles that the side experienced were not because of Ramsey failing to live up to expectations.
There was pressure on Ramsey from then Cardiff City manager Dave Jones to join Manchester United, as he would have been loaned back to the club from the Welsh capital following the completion of the deal. However, in an early indication of Ramsey's tactical appreciation, he believed in Wenger's plans for him in the side, and saw Wenger's enthusiasm for the project as the right choice for his long-term ambition.
Ramsey has been a key player for Wales over the course of the last decade, and former manager Chris Coleman valued his contribution above that of Gareth Bale - such was his overall influence in attack and defence. As creatively brilliant as he is defensively strong in midfield, Ramsey played a pivotal role in Wales reaching the semi-finals of Euro 2016.
It is no coincidence that his suspension for the semi-final against eventual winners Portugal resulted in defeat. Wales lacked the creative edge needed to exploit the small pockets of space that Bale thrives upon, while the space left in midfield forced the Real Madrid star to play in a deeper role and work in less effective areas to compensate for Ramsey.
A player in demand
It was the game that vindicated Coleman's vouching for Ramsey in the team, and it seems increasingly bizarre that Arsenal have opted to part company with such an influential and committed figure who has been such a big part of their recent, albeit limited, success. The fact that he has been courted by the biggest clubs in the world since his departure was confirmed only adds to the madness.
Despite reported interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Manchester United and others, it seems Juventus are close to an agreement with the midfielder to take him to Turin in the summer. If confirmed, Ramsey would follow in the footsteps of two other Welsh stars in John Charles and Ian Rush, and at the age of 28, he still has the potential to eclipse the pair.
The late John Charles is still revered at Juventus. Between 1957 and 1962 he scored over 100 goals in 155 appearances for the club, and he is still considered to be Britain's finest European export. Named 'Il Gigante Buono – The Gentle Giant', Charles set a standard that all future British players were compared with in the subsequent Serie A transfers.
The perfect match
But Ramsey is a very different type of player to Charles, and his contribution may even be appreciated more if he can bring the very best out of Ronaldo. The pace of Serie A will suit the technical side of Ramsey's talent, and he will relish the defensive responsibilities that form the cornerstone of the Italian game.
During their time together at Real Madrid, Bale and Ronaldo had similar attacking responsibilities on either side of the field. However, Ramsey will play in a deeper, more creative midfield role, and his ability to find pockets of space will be music to the ears of Ronaldo and his calculated runs in behind the opposition defence.
It is a position that a player can mature into and improve on with age. It takes experience and understanding to perform the role consistently well, and Juventus appear to be the perfect fit for Ramsey at this stage of his career.
Between his age, the pace of the game and the outlet in Ronaldo, the stars may have aligned to vindicate the fact that he will be the highest earner at the club behind the Portuguese genius.
The future is bright
This is an exciting transfer for Ramsey and Juventus, but also for Wales and manager Ryan Giggs. Ramsey has suffered plenty of unjustified criticism at Arsenal, but if a new start in Italy with a point to prove to his former club can finally bring the very best out of him, international success and redemption for 2016 can also follow.
Ronaldo will remain the headline-maker at Juventus, and he wouldn't have it any other way. However, Ramsey can be the catalyst to those headlines, and for that reason, they can be the perfect match.
Arsenal made their decision to invest in Mesut Ozil over Ramsey with an inflated contract, but it is Ramsey and Juventus who will eventually benefit from their flawed choice.