Aaron Ramsey has one eye on emulating former Arsenal team-mate Mikel Arteta as a Premier League manager – but the Wales star’s first ambition is to return hometown club Cardiff to the top flight.
Fifteen years after leaving south Wales for Arsenal, Ramsey is back where it all began. When he departed French club Nice in the summer, Ramsey had several offers but only one really interested him.
No matter that he would be operating in the second tier permanently for the first time since 2008. After three years in Italy with Juventus, and one in France, the call of home was strong and the 32-year-old is settling nicely.
His stunning strike in defeat at Leicester on August 19 was voted Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month and his former team-mates Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale would have been proud to score it. ‘It’s hard to copy them,’ smiles Ramsey. ‘It’s incredible what movement they get on the ball and how accurate they can be. I just focused on hitting it cleanly.’
Despite the Bluebirds’ slow start to the campaign, Ramsey is convinced better times are around the corner.
Aaron Ramsey says his ambition is to get Cardiff City promoted to the Premier League
Ramsey wants to become a Premier League manager like his former team-mate Mikel Arteta
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‘From a family point of view, I’m buzzing to be back where I started and the goal now is to help Cardiff get to the Premier League,’ he told Mail Sport. ‘I’ve played at the highest level for the majority of my career but the time was right for me to come back to Cardiff.
‘I wanted to come back at a time I still feel I can perform. On and off the field, it’s the perfect place for me. I always wanted to return one day and this is a great opportunity.
‘As soon as I found out there was a chance of this move happening, I wanted to do everything I could to make sure it did.
‘The Championship has improved a lot since I last played in it (during loan spells at Nottingham Forest and Cardiff in 2010-11) and we’ve had some tough away games to start, but we can take plenty of positives. It’s about learning to see out games when we take the lead. Once we do that, we’ll be OK.’
With so many seasons behind him and 83 caps for Wales to his name, it is hard to remember sometimes that Ramsey is still only 32.
His softly-spoken manner masks a ferociously competitive nature that helped him win five trophies during an 11-year spell at Arsenal, and three in as many years at Juventus.
While his primary focus remains playing, it would be no surprise to see him in the dugout one day. Ramsey has begun studying for his coaching qualifications and has watched with interest as his former team-mate Mikel Arteta has propelled Arsenal into English football’s elite once more.
The pair played together at Emirates Stadium from 2011-16 and Ramsey soon spotted the qualities that would make Arteta a future coach. The Spaniard also completed his qualifications at the Welsh FA’s renowned coaching centre in Newport – where Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Roberto Martinez also earned their stripes.
Ramsey believes that Arteta’s Arsenal are capable of winning the Premier League this season
In 2010 Ramsey broke his leg following a challenge from Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross
The midfielder says he had to retrain his brain to not get hurt again following his injury
‘You could always see Arteta had the knowledge, intensity and desire to be a manager one day,’ Ramsey recalls. ‘He has been brilliant for Arsenal.
‘I would have loved to win the Premier League while I was there and I am rooting for the current side to go on and achieve it.
‘They’ve signed good players this summer, they’re back in the Champions League and they’re in a good place. Hopefully they can go one step further.
‘I remember Arteta came through the Welsh set-up and we had a couple of conversations while he was doing it.
‘He said to me at the time that he wished he’d done his badges earlier as he saw the game differently after finishing those sessions. You see football from a new perspective and that can only help.
‘I think I want to stay in the game when I finish and maybe one day I will go into management. But for the moment I am fully focused on playing and I have many more years left.’
At one stage of his career, the idea of Ramsey still playing professionally in 2023 appeared remote, and February 27, 2010 will always be prominent in his mind.
A reckless challenge by Stoke defender Ryan Shawcross left Ramsey with fractures to the tibia and fibula of his right leg. Though Ramsey was back in action nine months later, he needed those loan spells with Forest and Cardiff to regain confidence again.
Ramsey is relishing being back at Cardiff and also remains part of the Wales setup
As well as the trophies he won at Arsenal, Ramsey won silverware with Juventus and Rangers
He returned to the Arsenal team later in the campaign but made only eight appearances and it was not until the 2011-12 season that Ramsey started to feel like his old self once more.
‘When you’ve done something like that, your brain tells you not to do it again otherwise you’re going to get hurt,’ he explained. ‘So it’s about retraining your brain and trusting it again but that takes a long time.
‘If you burn your finger on a stove, you’re not going to stick your finger there again. So it was about getting used to contact in training again and realising everything was OK.
‘But that probably took a year-and-a-half. It doesn’t happen until you really commit to a big 50-50 challenge and come out of it. At that point, you think OK, I’m good to go now.’
It says everything about Ramsey’s resilience that all nine trophies he won – including three FA Cups and a Serie A title – arrived after the Shawcross incident. That felt sweet – but you sense that winning promotion with his boyhood club would top the lot.