After 11 seasons, more than 300 games and three FA Cup triumphs, Aaron Ramsey’s Arsenal career appears to be coming to an end.
According to Sky Sports, the Welsh international, whose contact expires in June 2019, has been informed the Gunners will not be offering him new terms; he will leave at the end of the season on a free transfer.
Ramsey signed for Arsenal as a teenager and developed into one of the Premier League’s finest central midfielders at the club, overcoming a career-threatening leg break along the way.
Now, though, it seems the former Cardiff City standout must seek pastures new. Here, we analyse three potential destinations for Ramsey.
United have history when it comes to targeting Arsenal players with contracts nearing expiry.
Of course, the most obvious example is Alexis Sánchez. The 20-time champions signed the Chilean last January, when he was just six months away from becoming a free agent, in a swap deal which saw Henrikh Mkhitaryan move to the Emirates Stadium.
Sánchez has been unable to recapture his best form at Old Trafford and is now reportedly unhappy at losing his place in José Mourinho’s team. But United shouldn’t let this deter them from raiding the Gunners once more; after all, a similar capture of Robin van Persie in 2012 contributed heavily to the club’s 20th league title, while Sir Alex Ferguson was also keen to sign contract rebel Samir Nasri from Arsenal before the Frenchman joined Manchester City in 2011.
There is an obvious position for Ramsey to walk into at United, too. With the Red Devils tending to line up in a 4-3-3 shape, aimed at maximising Paul Pogba‘s gifts on the left side of a midfield trio and with Nemanja Matić or Fred anchoring, the Welshman could fit in on the right.
Ramsey would add a goal threat from midfield, while his crisp, short passing in the final third could help United unpick the kind of deep-lying, stubborn defences that often cause them strife.
However, the addition of another attack-minded midfield could unbalance United’s middle third somewhat.
If freeing Pogba is the aim, Mourinho might wish to seek a controlling playmaker, someone who dictates tempo and averages 70-plus passes per 90 minutes – something Ramsey hasn’t managed across a Premier League season since 2015/16, with his current average of 49.5 passes per 90 the lowest of his Arsenal career.
Contrastingly, Chelsea already possess one of European football’s most skilled conductors in Jorginho, who averaged over 100 passes per 90 in each of his last three seasons with Napoli.
Instead, what Chelsea’s midfield lacks desperately is goal-power.
Neither Jorginho nor middle-third cohort N’Golo Kanté pose much of a direct goal-threat to the opposition, so, ideally, Maurizio Sarri might want to field an attack-minded player in the third midfield position in his 4-3-3 set-up.
At present, Matéo Kovačić, on loan for the season from Real Madrid, is the top pick to play alongside Jorginho and Kanté, but, for all his many gifts, goal-scoring is not a strength of the Croatian’s.
Former Everton man Ross Barkley is more of a goal threat, and his early season form has been a real positive for Chelsea. But it can’t yet be argued that the Englishmen, 24, is as accomplished in the role as 27-year-old Ramsey.
The Welshman hasn’t hit double figures in a single league campaign since 2013/14. But, supplied by Jorginho and protected by Kanté, he could have greater license to roam at Stamford Bridge than he has ever been afforded at Arsenal.
However, Chelsea fans might not be thrilled with the prospect of bringing in a high-earning, established Premier League midfielder to walk straight into their line-up at the expense of their gifted academy products; it is an all-too-familiar tale in west London.
There is a real desire among Blues supporters to see Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Mason Mount – who is set to return from loan at Derby County next season – succeed at the club; the latter, in particular, appears to have the goal-getting ability to give Chelsea’s midfield perfect balance.
Italian champions Juventus are the masters of the free-agency market, having snapped up the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Dani Alves and Emre Can in recent years.
Reports in Italy suggest the Turin giants will look to repeat the trick with Ramsey.
Envisioning a role for the Welshman within the Juventus midfield is a little more difficult than with some of the Premier League-based clubs likely to court his signature, as the Bianconeri possess so much quality in this department.
Ramsey is neither as proficient a pass-master as Miralem Pjanić or Rodrigo Bentancur, nor as industrious and disciplined as Blaise Matuidi.
While Juve’s middle three, like Chelsea’s, offer little in the way of an open-play goal threat, this is not a concern as their midfield provides a platform for a swathe of gifted attackers; Douglas Costa, Federico Bernardeschi, Mario Mandžukić and Cristiano Ronaldo provide the firepower further forward.
The great fallen giant of European football, AC Milan are on a mission to rebuild toward former glories and, if reports are to be believed, they view Ramsey as the ideal candidate to aid that process.
While the Rossoneri possess an abundance of serviceable midfielders, they do not boast near the same quality as Juventus; Giacomo Bonaventura, Lucas Biglia and Franck Kessié are all fine players, but any midfield combination Milan could put out would undoubtedly been boosted by Ramsey’s presence.
Gennaro Gattuso’s men are currently fourth in the Serie A table; if they are able to finish in that position or higher, they will be back in the Champions League – a competition they have won seven times – next season, and will represent an attractive option when Ramsey is deciding his next destination.