Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey has admitted to being "flattered" by reports Barcelona are interested in him. Yet crucially, the Welsh star has still committed himself to a Gunners squad he believes can win major trophies this season.
Ramsey made those claims during an interview with the Guardian's Stuart James:
Obviously it’s very flattering. They did the treble last year and it’s just really nice to be linked with one of the best clubs in the world. One day I would like to go over to Spain to play just to see what it’s like and to experience that. But at the moment I’m with Arsenal and I feel like this Arsenal team can go and be successful and challenge for things.
Ramsey's commitment is great news for Arsenal. Gunners boss Arsene Wenger knows how important the supremely gifted 24-year-old can be to any bid for the Premier League title.
A former Cardiff City prodigy, Ramsey is close to being the complete midfielder. He combines awesome reserves of energy with natural flair and excellent technique.
Ramsey is also a prolific goalscorer from midfield. He's hit 26 goals in the last two seasons, according to Arsenal's official site.
Wenger recently indicated how important a healthy amount of goals from the middle will be in the Gunners' pursuit of more trophies, per Max Jones of the club's official site: “What we want is some more goals from some players who are not really strikers and that was our strength traditionally."
Ramsey's versatility is also important. He was particularly valuable playing on the right flank toward the end of last season.
As an inverted winger, the Welshman's movement was excellent and he chipped in with some clutch goals. Yet despite his potential out wide, Ramsey is still keen to boss the middle, something else he made clear to James: “But I just want to stay fit and healthy this season, have a full campaign and get my place back in the middle of the park, because that’s where I feel that I play my best football."
Ramsey may want to be Arsenal's man in the middle, but he could struggle to reclaim that spot. The Gunners now have specialist players in vital midfield berths.
Francis Coquelin is the holding player, while Mesut Ozil is the No. 10 creator-in-chief. In between, Santi Cazorla has remade himself superbly as a deep-lying link player. He's been too good to drop, even for Ramsey.
Wenger recently suggested some players will have to move wide if they want to be involved in the starting 11 this season, per the club's official site: "I have so many good creative players. If you ask all of them where they want to play, they will always tell you central. Unfortunately some of them have to go wide as well."
Wherever he plays, Ramsey will be a key figure for the Gunners this season. Wenger will hope he's playing a significant role for years to come.
Wenger Wants 'New Fabregas'
One midfield player Wenger may be willing to indulge is Real Betis youngster Dani Ceballos. Spanish newspaper AS suggests Wenger thinks the 18-year-old can be "the next Cesc Fabregas" (h/t Ben Jefferson of the Daily Express).
Jefferson also reported how Serie A giants Juventus are keen on the central schemer. Yet even Juve will struggle to compete against Wenger's reputation for developing young prospects into stars.
The 65-year-old Gunners gaffer has not lost his eye for talent. Nor has he foregone his fidelity to giving youngsters a chance.
Wenger is never afraid to put a teenager into the first team if he believes the player is good enough to make the grade. That's how it was with Fabregas, who went from 16-year-old unknown to world-class playmaker on Wenger's watch.
Catalan full-back Hector Bellerin is the latest success story. The 20-year-old defender became a key figure in Arsenal's second-half-season surge to retaining the FA Cup and finishing in third place in England's top flight.
Wenger recently made clear he won't abandon Arsenal's youth-driven philosophy to building a squad, per Sky Sports: "That means we want to continue to give chances to young players and build the players from inside our club with our culture."
A deal for Ceballos would put those words into action. But he's unlikely to come cheap. Ceballos is already a leading light for Betis despite his tender years.
If Wenger really is keen, he'll have to decide if he can add Ceballos to a squad already brimming with young midfield aces. The likes of Jack Wilshere, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Serge Gnabry are in the first team, while Dan Crowley, Gedion Zelalem and Jon Toral are definitely ones to watch for the future.
But if a prospect is talented enough, Wenger has consistently proved he'll make room. That's how he's refreshed numerous squads and kept Arsenal competitive even after losing so many top stars.
If a player such as Ramsey did have his head turned by La Liga interest, count on Wenger being ready to develop a replacement.