Entering the press room with a broad smile, Aaron Ramsey is clearly enjoying life in Turin. He took to the podium on Monday morning in good spirits, opening up his introductory press conference by showing off his new language skills. “I want to thank you all for being here and I’m very happy to be here at Juventus,” he said in Italian. “They’re one of the best teams in the world.”
He has clearly been working on it, and promised the reporters present that he would continue to do so before the new campaign gets underway, but in truth he has plenty of other tasks to complete before then.
First and foremost, Ramsey will need to overcome the hamstring problem which cut short his final season with Arsenal. “It’s progressing nicely at the moment, I’m doing a lot of work to try and get back as quickly as possible,” he said after switching back to English. “I’m not quite there yet to go into full training, but I’m not too far away. I want to start training with the guys as soon as possible.”
It remains unclear whether that issue will keep him out of the club’s pre-season tour to Asia, Ramsey admitting that a decision will be made “over the next few days” about whether he will join the squad for the trip to Singapore, China and South Korea.
Of course, regaining full fitness will only lead to more hurdles, the sheer depth of talent in the current Juventus squad ensuring the battle for first team places will be intense. In joining a side that already boasts the midfield talents of Miralem Pjanić, Emre Can, Rodrigo Bentancur and Blaise Matuidi, Ramsey has not taken the easy option, while fellow new arrival Adrien Rabiot only adds to the degree of difficulty.
But he seems fully aware of what lies ahead. “Yes, there were other clubs, but this is the right club for me and I’m so excited and proud to be here,” he told reporters. “I know how hard it’s going to be, I’ve prepared myself for that and I’m looking forward to the challenge. There is competition for places, but that’s to be expected at a team like Juventus and as soon as I knew they were in for me, there was no question on where I was going to go. You can’t turn down that opportunity.”
Even his choice of shirt number is a decision laden with history as Ramsey will don the No 8 previously worn by Claudio Marchisio, a Turin native and Juventus youth product who remains a beloved figure among supporters of the Bianconeri.
“I know he was an unbelievable player here who grew up here and had a fantastic career,” said Ramsey. “I spoke to him a couple of times and if I can emulate what he’s done for Juventus, I’d be pretty proud of that and I’m looking forward to wearing that shirt I know it comes with responsibilities, but I’m ready for that too.”
Yet as a proud Welshman, he clearly has some grasp of the lure Italian football’s grand Old Lady has upon those fans. Indeed, Ramsey has joined Juve 62 years after John Charles, but his compatriot is held in such high esteem that a question about Il Gigante Buono – “The Gentle Giant” – was simply inevitable. “He’s an absolute legend and achieved so much here,” the new man replied. “He is a great hero of Welsh football and he’s definitely someone I look up to and will try to emulate.”
That will be no easy feat given that Charles was Player of the Year and Serie A’s leading goal scorer back in 1958, but Ramsey knows that – just as it will for Maurizio Sarri – Champions League success will quickly help win over any doubters. “I’ve spoken to the coach a few times and he’s very approachable and easy to talk to,” he said, before reflecting on what he saw from the new boss during his Chelsea tenure.
“From what I saw last season, he got to two finals, won one of them and finished in the top four,” Ramsey continued. “That’s not easy to do, so it was definitely a success for him there. Hopefully he can bring his philosophy and style to the team, as winning and playing good football is the ideal situation, but it’s not the only way. Hopefully this will be something we can do and be really successful doing.”
They will need to, and Ramsey knows that delivering on the field is all that truly matters. “I have to back myself and produce in order to get into this team, so I’m just looking forward to the challenge and hopefully can play my part,” he said with a smile. “A player like me, I want to affect the game, whether I score or assist, both are equally important to help the team. I’ll be hoping to score and create as many goals as I can this season, in order to achieve our targets.”
The aim of course is to end the long wait for Champions League glory that stretches back to 1996. It was failing in that competition that ultimately led to Max Allegri’s exit and it is there that Sarri, Cristiano Ronaldo and Co will be judged at the end of the 2019/20 campaign.
He will need to overcome his injury, win a place in the side, get used to “Sarri Ball” and win over those who still miss homegrown hero Marchisio, but if he can do all that and help Juventus lift that elusive trophy, Ramsey’s smile will be even wider.
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