Sheffield United: Aaron Ramsdale admits it was difficult to focus while speculation over Arsenal move was raging
Aaron Ramsdale has admitted it was “difficult” to focus on playing for Sheffield United before his big-money move to Arsenal was eventually confirmed on Friday.
Ramsdale, the young England goalkeeper, was officially unveiled at the Emirates Stadium after putting pen to paper on a long-term deal at the Premier League club.
Speculation over his future raged over the summer, ever since United were relegated from the top-flight last season and he was drafted into the England squad for this summer’s European Championships.
“It’s been difficult,” Ramsdale admitted. “It’s never easy when you are trying to focus on playing your football with speculation in the background, it’s difficult. Now, I am here and everything is sorted.
“It’s been a long few days, but it’s finally over the line and now I can get onto the training pitch and crack on and hopefully do what I do best. But the interest has been a while, to be honest.
“There was speculation throughout the Euros and just sort of whispers and things, so didn’t think too much of it. It gathered pace towards the Championship season, I played the first two games and over time, it just grew bigger and bigger.
“Thankfully, the two clubs reached an agreement to bring me here and as I said before, I am absolutely delighted.”
United initially demanded £40m for one of their prized assets after they were relegated from the Premier League, a stance that initially frustrated Arsenal after they made Ramsdale their top goalkeeping target this summer.
The saga looked to be at an end when Arsenal made another move for Ramsdale, but could not agree a fee. Then, after Ramsdale made it clear that he wanted to join Arsenal, the two clubs agreed a move which is initially thought to be worth in the region of £24m, and could rise as high as £30m in the long term if Ramsdale establishes himself as the Gunners’ No.1 goalkeeper.
The Blades described that figure as “head-turning” and must now decide if they will reinvest any of that fee in their squad before the transfer window closes at the end of this month. Slavisa Jokanović, the Blades boss, is still searching for his first league win since succeeding Chris Wilder and admitted recently that, were it up to him, he would not have sanctioned the departure of Ramsdale – even for as much as £100m.
But it is the harsh reality of football, that clubs are always vulnerable to having their prized assets picked off by those higher up the football pyramid – especially after relegation to the Championship, with the significant drop in income that follows.
Even if United had secured their top-flight status last season, Ramsdale may still have moved on; albeit surely for a more inflated price. The player himself will hope that the move solidifies his chances of winning a full England cap and, in the short term, has signalled his intentions of challenging Bernd Leno for the long-term spot between the posts.
"It's a fantastic place to be,” Ramsdale added. “Bernd has done a fantastic job over recent seasons and it's my job to push him all the way and take his shirt.
“That's for me to achieve and for him to keep in front of me. Healthy competition is going to be good for the group and hopefully, I can bring something different to the goalkeeping department, as well as the team.
"We all have different qualities so hopefully we can merge into one as a team."
Ramsdale is now another graduate of the Blades’ youth academy to make a big-money move to one of the traditional big clubs in England, albeit one that the Blades themselves bought back for a multi-million-pound fee after initially selling him to AFC Bournemouth.
After completing loan spells with Chesterfield and AFC Wimbledon while at United, Ramsdale established himself in the Premier League on the south coast and despite Bournemouth’s relegation back to the Championship, was voted their player of the season.
He repeated that trick with United after overcoming a rocky start to his second spell as a Blades player, when he came into a side decimated by the absence of Jack O’Connell who found themselves behind the eight-ball almost from the start of the season in terms of surviving in the top flight.
As the season wore on, and despite United’s struggles, Ramsdale impressed and was initially named in Gareth Southgate’s provisional squad for the Euros. He was cut when the 26-man roster was submitted, but then received a late call-up after Dean Henderson, the former United loanee now back at Manchester United, suffered an injury and was forced to withdraw.
“I've learned to grow mentally and as a person off the pitch,” he added. “I think I have an old head for a young 23-year-old and some people say goalkeepers don't play a lot of football by the time they're 23.
“Obviously I have, so that's on my side. I wear my heart on my sleeve, I leave everything out there. It's a classic way of looking at it, but I have a lot of passion and pride.
"I'll give my all with a lot of hard work. It's not all going to be plain sailing and going in a positive direction every time, but you won't see me shying away from any challenges and if it's bad, I'll still be standing up and going again next time."