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Rob Page backs Aaron Ramsey to emulate midfield maestro Luka Modric

25 Mar 2023 3 minute read
Wales’ Aaron Ramsey celebrates after the final whistle following the FIFA World Cup Qualifier semi-final against Austria. Photo Nick Potts PA Images

Rob Page believes Aaron Ramsey can become Wales’ Luka Modric by operating effectively in a deeper midfield role.

Modric still dictates games for Croatia and Real Madrid at the age of 37, finding space in deep-lying areas and releasing forwards with sublime passing ability.

“I was watching Sky Sports News after the World Cup for Modric but he didn’t retire,” boss Page joked ahead of Wales’ opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia in Split on Saturday.

But Page is serious when he talks about Ramsey, appointed skipper in the wake of Gareth Bale’s retirement from football, evolving his game at the age of 32.

Ramsey built his reputation at Arsenal as a goal-scoring midfielder knowing when to perfectly time runs into the opponents’ penalty area.

But Page says Ramsey, who is enjoying a good season at Ligue 1 Nice, could be utilised differently in a campaign that sees Armenia, Croatia, Latvia, Turkey and Wales competing for two places available for the tournament in Germany.

“Aaron can play a multitude of positions,” Page said.

“He played against a very athletic three in the World Cup against USA and looking at the distance covered, he matched them, he wasn’t left behind.

“We also used him in a deeper role in a two, he can do both.

“The frustration Aaron has at times is if he is not getting the ball he drops deeper and deeper, so it is keeping him disciplined.

“But he’s also the one capable of threading those passes to whoever we are going to play up front to run onto.”

Tough start

Wales could not have asked for a tougher start in Group D to try and shake off their World Cup blues.

Wales scored only once – a Bale penalty – and finished bottom of their group in Qatar, and Page has turned to youth with Chris Gunter, Joe Allen and Jonny Williams also retiring from international football in recent months.

By contrast, Croatia once again defied huge odds at the World Cup to show that a country with only 3.9 million people can be a member of football’s elite.

The 2018 World Cup finalists finished third in Qatar – and the Croatia players will get a heroes’ homecoming in Split with commemorative scarves handed out to each supporter to wave and greet them.

Page said: “What they have done in the World Cup is no surprise because in major tournaments they do deliver.

“We have to be at our very best and we will. Some of our best performances were with youth against Holland and Belgium.

“We qualified for the World Cup and then had to go out to Holland three days later.

“The gamble that was forced upon to play some of the younger players, that was arguably one of our better performances.

“We will respect them because they are a very good team, but we have to try to be as positive as we can to get a result.”

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