It seems to be an increasingly common practice in club football to see young stars at lower profile clubs sign contract extensions which see them get a significant raise shortly before moving on to larger clubs. Largely because of that the recent contract extension signed by Gaston Ramirez caught my attention, especially in light of the fact that it reportedly quadrupled his salary and added a buyout to the deal (I've seen the buyout rumored to be anywhere between 12-22 million pounds). With the international break in full swing and the Uruguayans scheduled to face Italy tomorrow (Ramirez started the qualifier against Chile, so he may rest for the friendly), this seemed an ideal time to take a look at Ramirez.
Ramirez is one of the top young talents in the world, and his club (Bologna) is hovering around the relegation zone in Italy. They also aren't a traditional big spender, so one would assume that the greater good for the club would involve cashing in on such a valuable asset soon. Ramirez was reportedly extremely unhappy with the club over the summer and pushed very hard for a move away, so to see him commit additional years to the club was a bit of a surprise.
Unless you watch Serie A with some regularity, you may not yet be aware of Ramirez. That probably will not be the case for long though, as the 6' winger/midfielder has now seemingly broken into the squad of the Uruguayan national team for the foreseeable future. He's definitely among the top U21 players in the world, and like WAGNH favorite Eden Hazard and Mario Gotze he has the ability to play both wings and all across the midfield. Given AVB's affinity for players that provide width, flexibility, and youth, Ramirez seems like a near perfect fit at Stamford Bridge (or whatever we'll be calling it).
At 6' tall and weighing about 175 lbs, Ramirez is ideally suited for the physical nature of the Premier League. He's noted for exceptional pace and work rate, and he's about average in the air and holding off tacklers. He's very good with the ball at his feet, and has shown the ability to beat defenders off the dribble on a regular basis. Because of that, he tends to draw a large number of fouls on a regular basis, although that number would likely decline in England. He's an excellent short passer who plays very solid through balls, but his crossing and over the top balls can be a bit suspect. He likes the longer shot and is capable of taking them, but from time to time he has some Kalou-like games where everything is well off the mark. He's already established himself as an excellent set piece taker, something which Chelsea could really benefit from. Here's a little look at Ramirez for those who have never seen him:
While there really hasn't been any reliable link between Chelsea and Ramirez yet, I'd be surprised if the January window comes without hearing his name attached to top teams like Barcelona, Real Madrid, the Manchester clubs, and ourselves (he's already been linked to clubs like Liverpool and Juventus). The more I watch him, the more I'm convinced that he's probably just as good as Eden Hazard and Marion Gotze. Most of the more statistically oriented soccer sites out there seem to agree, with whoscored even rating him above Hazard based on his performance thus far in 2011/2012 (that article will make you a sad panda though if you read all the way through it). With ESPN 3 carrying a good number of Serie A games and Conmebol WC qualifying underway, you'll probably have chances to see this kid if you want to. I'd highly recommend it, as he's almost certainly going to be moving to a much larger club in the very near future.