It was a near inevitability that the 28-year-old would leave for nothing from the moment in September when the Gunners withdrew a contract offer that had been left unsigned for several months.
The exact reason behind that decision has never been made public, but conversations with key figures on both sides of the argument reveal several points of general agreement.
Firstly, Ramsey had been offered a deal at Arsenal that represented a significant increase on the circa £110,000 a week he earns. That deal shifted a little, but the main components were in place for a long time before the September U-turn.
Secondly, Arsenal dismissed any notion of selling Ramsey last summer. A few clubs — including Manchester United — enquired but the prevailing consensus was that Ramsey would be retained with a view to finding an agreement.
Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly, Ramsey (below) did not agitate to leave. Unlike the vast majority on the high-profile departure list — the most obvious example being Alexis Sanchez — the midfielder was not pushing for a move and never downed tools or caused disruption behind the scenes.
Ramsey is known to enjoy London life and his wife, Colleen, gave birth to twins — their second and third children — in October. Moving a young family abroad in 2019 was not top of his to-do list.
Head coach Unai Emery has both publicly and privately expressed his admiration for Ramsey’s professionalism during the past few months as he has whittled six interested clubs down to two before finally committing the next four years to the Serie A champions.
It is partly why this newspaper reported last month that Emery was keen to keep Ramsey until the summer regardless of his next move as the Spaniard believes he can play an active role in the second half of the season.
To underline the point, since news of the contract offer being retracted emerged on September 27, Ramsey has made 11 starts and 12 substitute appearances. In the same period, Mesut Ozil has made nine starts, three from the bench. Ozil’s £350,000-a-week contract is said by some to have been held as a benchmark by Ramsey’s representatives to extract a higher wage for their client during negotiations.
It is at this point the two versions of events start to diverge, but what is clear is that the contract withdrawal became a financial decision.
One senior figure in Emery’s backroom set-up told this column that while he was consulted over Ramsey’s future, the final call was taken above his head. Which brings us to the restructuring Ivan Gazidis oversaw before jumping ship for the cash and probable equity share on offer at AC Milan.
It is now more than five-and-a-half years since Gazidis heralded the “escalation in our financial firepower” which signalled an end to the restrictions imposed by the self-funded move to Emirates Stadium.
During the lean period, player sales became a necessary component to balance the books, and the club’s ambitious stars sought greater salaries elsewhere.
Arsene Wenger would award some contracts out of loyalty and the explosion in the wage bill is in some ways explained by the need to shift from a system where players were paid similar amounts to one which allows clubs to pay top dollar to their biggest stars.
Arsenal ultimately decided they could do without both Ramsey and his market value. Even with an increase in commercial revenue to come, an absence of Champions League football for a third consecutive season would make that call highly questionable. Selling him last summer may have been unpalatable given the change of manager, but they lost around £40million in opting against doing so.
A more cynical club would have paid to get Ramsey to commit and then flogged him later. The way this has played out for a servant of 11 years is, in truth, not much better.
And so, they lose a big player for nothing. It is a familiar tale, but the twist this time is they consciously lost Ramsey — and given the modest transfer budget they could have this summer, it looks like a particularly big gamble.