STEPHEN McGOWAN: Never mind the penalty miss… the signing of Aaron Ramsey has failed to hit the mark. He was hailed as the biggest Rangers signing since Gazza but may be one of their most expensive mistakes
- Rangers suffered a 5-4 penalty shootout defeat to lose the Europa League final
- Aaron Ramsey, who arrived on loan in January, missed the decisive penalty kick
- His signing was hailed but he may be one of Rangers’ most expensive mistakes
- He cannot solely be blamed for Eintracht Frankfurt loss but move hasn’t worked
Pundits paid to offer an opinion on football accept being wrong as one of the occupational hazards of their job.
Ally McCoist is in high demand from the nation’s broadcasters for good reason. Fellow former Rangers and Scotland striker Kris Boyd’s record of scoring goals, meanwhile, makes him worth a hearing.
When Aaron Ramsey signed for Rangers on loan at the end of January, however, two of the highest-profile match analysts in the game branded the Welsh international the club’s biggest signing since Gazza in 1990s. It’s an opinion that hasn’t aged well.
Aaron Ramsey was left overcome with emotion after missing a penalty in Europa League final
The Welshman was introduced before the shootout but saw his penalty saved by Kevin Trapp
With Rangers paying a chunk of Ramsey’s £400k a week salary at Juventus, a record of nine starts and two goals probably makes him the most costly.
And a missed penalty in Wednesday’s gut-wrenching Europa League final defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Seville might even make him one of the most expensive transfer mistakes in club history.
Calculating the price of losing the Europa League final is never an exact science. Winning the trophy would have instantly secured around £30million for automatic qualification for the group stage of the Champions League, with gate receipts on top. A European Super Cup final against Real Madrid or Liverpool on August 10 would have raked in another £7m on top of a similar sum for winning the Europa League.
Wales international Ramsey arrived on loan from Juventus in late January to great fanfare
Ramsey was viewed as Rangers’ biggest signing since Paul Gascoigne (pictured) in 1995
Landing all that at the feet of Ramsey would be unfair, of course. Any player can miss a penalty and, had the Ibrox side won the shoot-out 5-4 instead of losing it by the same scoreline, the narrative would now be very different. After a thrilling run to the final, there is something brutally unfair about that.
The disappointment reflects an acknowledgement that Rangers might never have a better chance of winning their second European trophy.
While Eintracht Frankfurt had outstanding performers in Filip Kostic, goalscorer Rafael Borre and tireless captain Sebastian Rode, they were there for the taking.
While Calvin Bassey enhanced his reputation further with an outstanding display, however, seasoned regulars like James Tavernier and Borna Barisic failed to reach the levels of previous rounds.
None of which changes the fact that Ramsey’s failure to convert 12 yards will be remembered as the difference between death and glory.
In assessing the Welshman’s contribution over the last five months, there is more to consider than a missed penalty in a Europa League final.
Despite the headlines and the hype in January, the 31-year-old’s injury record in Italy always made him a high-risk investment and sometimes risks don’t come off.
He missed the penalty but the move to bring Ramsey in simply hasn’t hit the mark at Ibrox
Barring a stunning match-winning cameo in the Scottish Cup final on Saturday, Ramsey is now destined to be remembered as the Rangers equivalent of Shane Duffy – a high-profile loan signing for Celtic who didn’t hang around terribly long.
After the excitable predictions on the first day of February, former Rangers striker Boyd was the first to roll back his comments on Thursday telling Sky Sports: ‘It’s disappointing for Aaron Ramsey.
‘He’s a talented footballer but it’s just not happened for him at Rangers you have got to say. When you stand up there (on the penalty spot) there is a lot of pressure riding on it, and listen, he missed it but it happens in football. Aaron Ramsey is a fantastic footballer, but there are better footballers in the world over the years that have missed a penalty. It can happen to anybody.
‘It’s cruel, but if you analyse this run that Rangers have been on overall, you can look at it and say Rangers lost on penalties but they can be extremely proud of the journey they have been on.’
It’s now 19 years since tens of thousands of Celtic supporters colonised Seville for three days, returning home bitterly disappointed by an extra-time defeat to Jose Mourinho’s Porto in the UEFA Cup final. And Rangers supporters now know how that felt.
There have now been four finals involving Scottish teams in the Europa League, or what was once known as the UEFA Cup, and they have yet to win it.
He may go on to be viewed as one of Rangers’ most expensive mistakes in the transfer market
In 2008, Rangers were comprehensively defeated by Zenit St Petersburg in Manchester and some felt that would have been easier to take against Eintracht than losing the game in a penalty shoot-out.
Jock Stein’s national team suffered a bruising 4-1 defeat to a star-studded Brazil side in Seville in the World Cup finals of 1982 and, for fans of Scottish teams, Seville has now played host to some sun-baked let-downs. On all three occasions heat and crippling nerves contributed to performances which resulted in an over-arching sense of anti-climax.
Had Ryan Kent taken a glorious chance in the 118th minute, Rangers would have won their first European trophy since the Cup-Winners’ Cup final of 1972. Yet there were times when even the support seemed unusually flat and that was reflected in a performance which never came close to the heroics against Borussia Dortmund or RB Leipzig.
‘I don’t think we played as well as we had in the previous knock-out games,’ said legendary former captain Richard Gough.
‘I think if Kent had scored that goal just right at the end of extra-time that would have been that. But it was typical Germans on the penalties. No mistakes. And unfortunately Ramsey misses ours.
‘I was talking to a few people round me. They were saying: “Would you want to take a penalty?” I said: “Under those circumstances, most probably not”.
Rangers’ players now have to pick themselves up ahead of the Scottish Cup final on Saturday
‘I always watch penalty shoot-outs and you feel for the players going up. Especially when it comes right down to the end of it. I feel for Ramsey, just coming on and having the guts to take the penalty in the first place. It wasn’t a great penalty to be fair. Their goalkeeper did well.’
Outside Eintracht Frankfurt, the biggest beneficiaries of the Rangers demise could be Hearts.
Gough played in the 1998 Scottish Cup Final when Rangers failed to reach ten-in-a-row then slid to a 2-1 defeat to the Tynecastle club at Parkhead.
‘If I’m in that dressing room now you get around the boys and say: “Make sure we win the Scottish Cup final on Saturday”. And you take it from there. You have to try and pick yourself up.
‘It’s a huge disappointment to lose a European final on penalties the way we did. But it was a marvellous achievement getting there. No one thought that would happen and it did. It was great for Scottish football and now we go back to the domestic stuff and make sure we win this final on Saturday.’
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