When Aaron Ramsey began his professional career with Cardiff City in 2006, the team was competing in the Football League Championship, England's second tier league. But Ramsey was anything but a second tier-type player, as it took just two years before English Premier League giants Arsenal signed him on a £4.8 million transfer fee.
On Saturday, Ramsey rendezvoused with his former club as an opponent and scored twice to help Arsenal capture a 3-0 win. The finish on both of Ramsey's goal was sublime. He flicked a 29th minute, driven cross from Mesut Özil past the outstretched dive of Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall and into the back of the net. In second half stoppage time, Ramsey finished an exchange with Theo Walcott by powering a shot into the upper right corner of the net.
The tallies were Ramsey's seventh and eighth of the season and helped extend first place-Arsenal's lead at the top of the standings to seven points.
But rather than showboat his goal in front of his former home crowd, Ramsey silently walked back to midfield, only slapping the hands of some of his Arsenal teammates, and waited for play to resume. It was a humble act by a player who hasn't forgotten his roots.
Ramsey began playing for Cardiff's youth team at age 8. He worked his way through the reserves before becoming a regular fixture with the first team. Since those foundational years, Ramsey has not only played in the Premier League, but he's also competed in the Olympic Games, World Cup qualifiers, and Champions League.
Arsenal fans who traveled to Cardiff City Stadium on Saturday naturally applauded Ramsey's goal. But ore surprising was the reaction of the Cardiff fans, who also applauded. To the Bluebirds, Ramsey is a classy, talented player they can call their own.
Losing Ramsey, even though he was just 17 at the time, was a big hit for Cardiff. Though Arsenal eventually signed Ramsey, he was chased by Manchester United and Everton, too.
Cardiff turned a corner when they were taken over by Malaysian investors in 2010. The club went through a re-brand and an influx of capital, and as a result Cardiff are no longer a team to be taken lightly. This year is their first-ever year competing in the Premier League.
And though they are currently hovering above the three-team relegation zone with 13 points from 13 games, Cardiff have perhaps played better than their current position suggests. They defeated Manchester City in August and then tied both Everton and Manchester United.
The days of Ramsey are long gone but Cardiff has gone on to make extraordinary progress as a club. Now separated, both parties are stepping up to different challenges. For Ramsey, it's about competing for a starting role on what is one of the best teams in the world. For Cardiff, it's about staying in the Premier League.
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