Aaron Ramsey’s return to Cardiff City *should* be fun for him and their supporters, but this signing exposes the Championship side’s short-sighted formula.
It’s been 15 years since Ramsey left his boyhood club Cardiff City to join Premier League giants Arsenal. He’s gone on to enjoy quite the career, with three FA Cup triumphs and his stellar performances for Wales at Euro 2016 among the highlights.
The midfielder comfortably established himself as a Gunners legend over his 11-year spell at the Emirates and he’s done Cardiff proud as one of the best players to ever progress through their academy.
And now aged 32, he’s returning home to perhaps end his career where it started back when he was a fresh-faced teenager.
A few months after Gareth Bale was heavily linked with a pre-retirement move to the Championship outfit, Cardiff have been more successful with their pursuit of Ramsey, who is back in Wales for a third spell (after his brief loan in 2011) following his exit from Ligue 1 side OGC Nice.
This is the type of glamour signing that will excite the prawn sandwich brigade who make the big decisions behind the scenes in the Football League as there’s no doubt that Ramsey’s arrival will bring more mainstream eyes to the Championship.
Everyone associated with Cardiff will also be lapping up the return of their prodigal son, who will surely take just as much enjoyment in finishing his career as the main man at a club close to his heart.
And it is easy to look at this signing with a naive glance and assume that Ramsey’s return will be all sunshine and rainbows, because how could it possibly go wrong? But I hate to p*ss all over Cardiff’s parade…
Up until his Arsenal exit in 2019 – barring his serious knee injury in 2010 – Ramsey had not endured too many career lows. But unfortunately for him, most of his bad moments have come following his move to Juventus.
I mean, he was reportedly earning an absurd £400,000 a week in Turin, so how bad could it have possibly been really.
If we gloss over that not-so-minor detail, in terms of his experiences on the pitch, his spell at Juventus was a bit of a disaster.
He was marred by injuries and even when fit, he was way down the pecking order as he started just 34 games across all competitions over three seasons.
A lacklustre loan spell at Rangers followed when his hefty contract was ripped up by Juventus in summer 2021. He managed to play more regularly for Nice last term, but he only managed to score one goal in 34 appearances (including 20 starts).
On the international scene, his decline was laid bare by his poor performances at last year’s World Cup as he was extremely ineffective in each of Wales’ group games before their swift elimination.
This was a sorry end to a golden period for the Welsh national team, with the dire performances of Ramsey and Bale (plus their poor start to Euro 2024 qualifying) being a clear indication of their impending slump.
Getting back to Cardiff, their reunion with Ramsey may not go as they hope. The standard of players in the Championship is perhaps not to the same level as Ligue 1, but it is an intense and fiercely competitive league that is capable of exposing individuals who are not ready to cope with the rigours.
And if Ramsey does indeed take this move lightly and assume he’ll breeze it in the second tier, he will be in for a rude awakening.
Saying that though, Ramsey does at least deserve credit for joining an exclusive group of players who have turned down the Saudi Pro League (Jordan Henderson should have followed him in doing that really) as the Championship will be an actual test for him. But if he’s as past-it (both in terms of fitness and ability) as I fear he is, next season could be a struggle for him.
As a neutral, it is difficult not to be concerned by recent events at Cardiff City.
Sabri Lamouchi did a great job carrying the Bluebirds to safety in the Championship last season, but he has been shipped off and replaced by Erol Bulut, whose managerial résumé is filled with past jobs in Turkey (most notably at Fenerbahce).
This appointment may end up proving to be a masterstroke, but after finishing just five points clear of the relegation zone in 2022/23, Cardiff are on a slippery slope and this is an untimely risk.
The club’s hierarchy are naive if they think that another relegation battle is not on the cards and the investment made on their Ramsey nostalgia trip should have been used on signing several Championship-ready upgrades to improve their overall squad.
Ramsey’s return shows Cardiff have lost sight of the incoming issues right ahead of them and while everyone associated with the club will love having him back, this has all the hallmarks of a major transfer misstep.