BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — When he chested down a pass from Gareth Bale and knocked the ball into the net against Turkey, one thing was clear — Aaron Ramsey was back.
After two seasons plagued by injuries at Juventus, Wales seems to be getting the best from the 30-year-old midfielder at the European Championship.
He was at the center of the action in the 2-0 win over Turkey on Wednesday, combining well with Bale to find scoring chances in attack and charging back down the field in the 80th minute to deny Turkey substitute Mert Müldür with a last-ditch tackle.
“It’s been there for many years. We’ve done it for a while now,” Bale said of his connection with Ramsey. “Obviously we always play for the shirt, we work hard as a team and it was great for him to get the first goal, get us off to a great start, and hopefully we can keep playing well together for the rest of the tournament.”
When he joined up with the Wales squad, Ramsey hadn’t played in any of Juventus’ last five Serie A games. Wales coach Robert Page’s staff put Ramsey on an individual training program ahead of the tournament and limited his involvement in pre-Euro 2020 friendlies, with Ramsey only coming off the bench for half an hour against World Cup champion France.
“He’s not played that many minutes at domestic level. We had to be sympathetic as to what he needed,” Page said. “We’ve dealt with him slightly different and he looks extremely fit and we’re reaping the rewards.”
Ramsey’s future at Juventus is uncertain despite having two years left on the contract he signed in 2019, when he arrived in Italy with an injury. Since then, there have been occasional glimpses of the Wales midfielder at his best — especially with a goal and assist against Inter Milan in March 2020 — but far too many games missed. None of the various injuries, mostly muscle problems, have been particularly serious on their own. Still, they stopped him from building momentum.
That affected his national team career, too. From March 2019 to March 2021, Wales played 21 times, only three of them with Ramsey on the field.
Regardless of whether he plays again in Serie A, Ramsey is now heading back to Italy with Wales to take on the Group A leaders in Rome on Sunday. Wales fed off the boos of the pro-Turkey crowd to grab a win in Baku in what felt like an away game, and hopes to do the same against Italy.
“I’ve got a few (Juventus) teammates playing for Italy so it will be nice for me out there,” Ramsey told the BBC on Wednesday. “But I’m representing my country now and we will do everything to win that game.”
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.