PSG on a free, join Ronaldo at Juventus or Bale in Madrid? Assessing Aaron Ramsey's options
We need to talk about Aaron Ramsey.
Out of contract at the end of the season, the midfielder's future shifted back into the spotlight with the start of a new year. There appears only one certainty when it comes to the Wales international – he will not be remaining at Arsenal beyond the 2018-19 campaign.
The Gunners seemed certain to hand the player an extension at one stage, only to then change their minds as talks collapsed.
"We all know that the contract was taken away off the table. I'm not sure exactly why because a few weeks before we sort of agreed and I was ready to sign," a confused Ramsey said in October. Now it is January 2019 and he is free to sign a pre-contract agreement with a team from outside of England.
Unsurprisingly, a number of high-profile clubs are reportedly keen. A player of such pedigree normally comes at a hefty cost in terms of a transfer fee, but Ramsey is a coveted free agent who has a career-altering decision to make.
So, will he play the waiting game and end up staying in the Premier League, or could the 28-year-old commit to a new employer in France, Germany, Italy or Spain in the coming weeks? We take a look at the potential landing spots...
Premier League alternatives
Having joined in 2008 from hometown club Cardiff City, it will be odd to see Ramsey lining up in the Premier League for anyone else than Arsenal.
Still, the same could have been said previously for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, who was blossoming following a fresh start at Liverpool before suffering a serious knee injury.
Ramsey has been linked with a reunion with his former team-mate at Anfield, as well as joining forces again with another ex-Gunner in Alexis Sanchez at Manchester United, albeit he may choose to wait to commit to the Red Devils until knowing the identity of their next permanent manager.
Rather than head north, the Wales international might make a switch far closer to his current home and sign for Chelsea. Such a move would burn all bridges with Arsenal supporters, though, as Ashley Cole can testify.
Ramsey's preferred destination, according to some media outlets. The Italian champions could be set to raid a Premier League team for a player out of contract again, having tempted Emre Can to leave Liverpool in 2018.
So, would he fit in at Juve? Yes, according to an iconic Italy international with strong Bianconeri connections. "Juventus are preparing another excellent deal. He is a strong player and could do very well," Andrea Pirlo said.
When Pirlo talks about a fellow midfielder in such glowing terms, it is difficult to ignore. Such words could help sway Ramsey when he weighs up potential landing spots.
According to a report in Italy late in December, Inter had reached a verbal agreement with Ramsey. The Nerazzurri are an attractive option and, sitting third in the table, they can dangle the carrot of potential Champions League football in 2019-20 like many of the other rumoured suitors.
They are not afraid to move in the transfer market, either. Inter bolstered their midfield options before the current campaign by signing Radja Nainggolan from Serie A rivals Roma, but the Belgian has struggled to make an impact at San Siro so far. Could Ramsey be set to arrive as a replacement?
The Bundesliga giants are not short of midfield options - they are stocked in the position despite the long-term absence of Corentin Tolisso, who has been out since September with a knee injury.
However, that does not mean they will pass up on an opportunity to add a player of Ramsey's experience and calibre. An overhaul of the squad seems possible at Bayern, and the Wales international would provide a box-to-box threat that is perhaps missing on the current roster.
With Adrien Rabiot set to depart for free when his contract runs out with the runaway Ligue 1 leaders, PSG could welcome in Ramsey without having to spend a penny to fill a gap in their star-studded squad.
It is not hard to see the temptation in playing regularly alongside Neymar and Kylian Mbappe - if the duo both remain in the French capital, of course - in a team that dominates domestically. A recent report in the French media suggested PSG sporting director Antero Henrique has been in regular contact with Ramsey's agent, too.
If Serie A is not to Ramsey's taste and French football fails to appeal, how about Spain instead? Moving to Madrid has one major advantage - it allows Ramsey to join forces with compatriot Gareth Bale at club level.
The one concern over making the Santiago Bernabeu his new home may be the stiff competition for places, though. Seasoned stars Toni Kroos and Luka Modric are surely first-choice options no matter who is in charge, while the hugely talented Isco has struggled for minutes since Santiago Solari's appointment.