What are the odds that two of the best players in world football today would be from Wales?
The little strip of land along the British Isle's west coast is not even a sovereign nation. Ruled by Queen Elizabeth II as part of the United Kingdom, Wales.com claims that the country is home to just over three million people.
Therefore, it is approximately 100 times less populated than the United States of America. Even England is 17 times more populated.
Nevertheless, two of the hottest commodities in football at the moment were born in Wales—and within a few years of each other.
Until very recently, Gareth Bale would have universally been held in higher esteem than Aaron Ramsey. The former was spectacularly shredding every team that was unfortunate enough to face him on a weekly basis whereas the latter was just beginning to emerge from a slump that had lasted nearly two years.
But while Bale was swashbuckling his way to a world-record €100 million transfer to Real Madrid, Ramsey was laying the foundation for one of the most remarkable metamorphoses in recent football history.
Few entirely sane people would declare that Ramsey has now surpassed his countryman in virtually any measurable category, but the Welsh national team now has two exceptionally prolific weapons with different abilities to build its future upon.
Chris Coleman, the manager of the national team, must carefully consider how he will utilize the riches that he has been given.
Essentially, his strategy must be one of maximizing freedom.
Bale and Ramsey are easily the two best players on the Welsh national team. No one else's quality approaches theirs and, aside from Ryan Giggs, no Welshman ever has.
Why, then, should either player be isolated by the relative mediocrity of his teammates?
Bale was in a roughly analogous, if not quite as pronounced, situation during the latter months of his time at Tottenham. Though he played with men who were significantly better than those who join him on the national team, he still could have been hampered.
Andre Villas-Boas recognized this and freed Bale from the fetters of the left wing. That was still his nominal position, but Bale was allowed to use his pace to roam about the pitch and migrate to wherever the best attacking area was.
He then won the PFA Player of the Year award.
The more Tottenham could funnel the ball to Bale's feet, the more opportunities he had to orchestrate a moment of magic. He nearly carried Spurs into the Champions League.
At Real Madrid, he will not have such liberty. Cristiano Ronaldo is at least Bale's equal and the left wing of the pitch at the Santiago Bernabeu is firmly in his control. Isco is one of myriad players that make it difficult to stick Bale in central attacking midfield.
But when he returns to his native land, there is absolutely no question about who the star of the show will be.
If Bale is to own the attack, Ramsey should make the midfield his domain.
At Arsenal, he is somewhat restricted by the specialization of his teammates. Mathieu Flamini and Mikel Arteta play in a more withdrawn position while Mesut Ozil and Santi Cazorla are solely attacking players. All—and especially the latter three—seem impossible to drop at the moment.
So where should Ramsey go?
Luckily, he is versatile and fit enough to be deployed in several different positions across the midfield, or even on the wing for a short time.
Arsene Wenger faces a painful weekly decision about where to put Ramsey, but Coleman must ponder no such quandaries.
Rather than using Ramsey's versatility to firmly insert him into an awkward position based on the tactical makeup of the rest of the team, Coleman can instruct Ramsey to follow the ball and be both Wales' distributor and metronome.
Ramsey has played in both roles for Arsenal. Recently, he has displayed that he is fit enough to excel in both of these taxing roles and constantly pressure the other team off the ball.
Such an exceptional player should not be constrained, if at all possible. As in Bale's case, this is impossible to avoid at the club level. But once he steps into the Millennium Stadium, the entire tactical objective changes.
When two players of this caliber are let loose and permitted to work in tandem, they can personally affect the outcome of a match and improve others' play at the same time.
In the fairly recent past, Giggs was the only player of this caliber that was available to the national team's manager.
He is thus one of the best players in the history of football to never play in a World Cup.
The Welsh currently sit at the foot of their World Cup Qualifying group. However, their transformation has not been completed.
In four years, a significantly different story could very well unfold. Ramsey and Bale will both be in their primes by the time Russia opens its doors in 2018.
Regardless of how Wales does if it gets there, the goal for one of the world's least successful footballing territories should merely be to qualify. Then, two of the three best Welsh players in history will be at their footballing peaks.
There can be few more exciting prospects for a Welsh football fan.
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