Arsenal can expect a flogging for allowing Aaron Ramsey to leave. As of Monday afternoon, it was confirmed that Ramsey had agreed to join Juventus in the summer of 2019 and will earn in the region of £400,000 per week. The midfielder will become the highest earning British player of all time one the contract begins.
Within those finances lies Arsenal’s defence for this: their current place in the game and the weight of their wage bill would have made attempting to match that figure reckless, especially given that Ramsey is already 28 and has plenty of miles on his clock.
The frustration lies in how it was that Arsenal reached this point. The Mesut Ozil extension, of course, now looks like a very lopsided deal. It wasn’t an exception though, instead representing the most egregious moment within a generation of overly-generous contracts, and Ramsey’s departure really just feels like the natural consequence of a situation which has been growing for some time.
But that past shouldn’t instruct the future. Ramsey is an excellent player, capable of being very effective in the Premier League, but he isn’t the sort of rare talent for whom common sense shouldn’t apply. He’ll need replacing and his role in the squad will have to be replicated, but that isn’t to say that over the next four years – the length of that Juventus deal – that he would have defined the club’s trajectory. £400,000 per week is a talisman’s wage, the kind of salary offered to someone with a Thierry Henry-like influence on the club. That’s especially true now, with Arsenal again likely to finish outside the Champions League places and having to plan for life without that lucrative revenue stream.
Viewed through that lens, it would have been impossible to rationalise rewarding Ramsey with such an extravagant basic wage. The club may have been boxed in during this negotiation and their position has been defined by errors made in the past, but that doesn’t mean that – in this instance – they haven’t made the right decision.
And what of Juventus? Free agent transfers certainly allow clubs to be more generous, but they have committed a vast sum of money to the latter years of Ramsey’s career. It’s a move which will benefit them, especially with Sami Khedira now 31 and Blaise Matuidi also approaching his 32nd birthday. However, given the side’s dominance of Serie A and their desire to win another European Cup, is this really a move which takes them any closer to realising that ultimate aim? He will provide depth and variation, he’s a different sort of midfielder, but can Ramsey truly be described as the sort of difference-maker who will allow Juve to over-power a Manchester City, Barcelona or Real Madrid? Again, probably not. There’s nothing in his past which suggests otherwise.
For Arsenal, it brings to an end an 11-year career from which they’ve greatly benefitted. More importantly, though, it represents a prudent decision which should create the kind of financial liberty necessary to construct a squad which can serve them over the next five or ten years. Fundamentally, Ramsey’s current and historic value to Arsenal has no relevance to the areas of their side which most need improving and, as such, he was expendable.
Perhaps that won’t be proven correct next season. Or the year after. But over time, eventually, they will almost certainly benefit from footing this bill.