In a cruel twist of fate, Aaron Ramsey’s most memorable contribution as a Juventus player so far may have been saying sorry. Last November, after Cristiano Ronaldo’s free-kick squirmed through the arms of Lokomotiv Moscow’s goalkeeper, Ramsey steamed in and toe-poked the already goal-bound ball over the line to the dismay of the Portuguese’s devotees – and, it must be said, their deity himself. “My instinct took over,” Ramsey explained afterwards. “I’ve apologized to Cristiano”
It might be insignificant, but it paints a picture of Ramsey’s minimal impact in Italy. Since making his debut in September, the bare statistics make for ominous reading. Ramsey has scored just twice – ‘theft’ included – and is yet to complete a full 90 minutes. Plagued by three separate injuries, in total, he has almost played 30 hours less football than fellow Serie A arrival Romelu Lukaku this season. And while his arrival on a free transfer was hailed as a coup, his reputed £400,000-per-week pre-tax salary is quickly coming to represent something closer to an economic catastrophe.
Of course, the reality isn’t quite as bleak. The gluttony of Juventus’s recruitment meant Ramsey began the season as one of seven central midfielders, an absurd pool of talent boasting two World Cups and 26 league titles, and a promised summer clear-out will lessen that fierce competition. After 11 seasons at Arsenal, he’s still adapting to the freedom and constraints of a new league, manager, language and environment. They are perfectly apt reasons to explain away any sluggish start. Yet, at a club where anything less than total dominance is framed as a failure, those factors do little to make Ramsey any less expendable.
Take Emre Can. After being signed under similar circumstances from Liverpool in the summer of 2018, he was abruptly left out of Juventus’s Champions League squad at the start of this season and jettisoned to Borussia Dortmund in January after just 18 months. Days after Can’s departure, Juventus’s surprise defeat against Hellas Verona was then followed by a report that the club are open to offloading Ramsey in the summer. No matter how spurious that proves to be, it encapsulates the sense of frustration.
Is anyone to blame in all of this? Perhaps, the step up to one of Europe’s true foot-balling behemoths has simply been steeper than expected. To say Ramsey was one of Arsenal’s most consistent players isn’t necessarily a great distinction. During the highs, lows, success and dysfunction of a decade under Arsene Wenger, he was a jewel in a rocky side, capable of genuinely stunning moments and firm leadership. But there were also spells where he was guilty of drifting into a duller periphery, another piece in the club’s downward spiral, never quite fulfilling the immense promise of that famed 2013/14 season.