Rangers’ January marquee loan signing of Aaron Ramsey was a seismic moment for Scottish football.
Albeit short on recent game time, and with his best years possibly behind him, the Ibrox side had secured themselves a talent many viewed as too good to play in Scotland.
But after just 13 games in four months, the Welsh international midfielder’s uninspiring spell took another disappointing lurch with his decisive penalty miss in Rangers’ Europa League final defeat by Eintracht Frankfurt.
BBC Scotland looks how the 31-year-old’s move has failed to pan out as hoped and asks if it can it be salvaged in Saturday’s Scottish Cup final?
Nine starts in four months
Rangers legend Ally McCoist hailed Ramsey as the club’s biggest signing since Paul Gascoigne – he wasn’t alone in that.
Following the deadline-day move, a pivotal Old Firm derby was on the immediate horizon. Ramsey wasn’t fit to feature – a constant theme – as Van Bronckhorst’s men fell to a sobering 3-0 defeat, swinging the title in Celtic’s favour.
The former Cardiff City and Arsenal player made his debut from the bench against Hearts four days later, before earning his first start away to Annan Athletic in the Scottish Cup the following week.
Only eight starts have followed, with goals at Dundee and at home to Celtic in April’s Old Firm league defeat.
There were signs of encouragement after an impressive showing in Rangers’ second-leg victory over Braga in the Europa League last eight, but yet again Ramsey was set back by a first-half injury in the Scottish Cup semi-final triumph over Celtic.
While his penalty miss in Seville will create headlines, the biggest issue has been getting Ramsey’s fitness up to scratch – a problem that has meant the midfielder has not started crucial games such as Wednesday’s final.
‘Aaron took responsibility’
Ramsey’s undoubted quality means if he was fit enough start, he surely would have. The Welshman played an hour of Rangers’ final game of the league season at Hearts, but was only given the last three minutes of extra-time in Seville.
Van Bronckhorst admitted afterwards that he was thrown on with penalties in mind, but the midfielder missed the only spot kick in the shootout, resulting in an agonising defeat which left Ramsey inconsolable.
“Aaron of course is disappointed,” the Ibrox boss said. “But he took responsibility to take the penalty. You can make it or you can miss it. Unfortunately for us, he didn’t make it. You want to have players taking penalties who are ready and comfortable.”
Former Scotland forwad Pat Nevin highlighted the harsh reality of Ramsey’s saved attempt.
“The standard of penalties was astonishingly high except for Ramsey’s,” Nevin said on BBC Radio 5 Live. “He has to live with that for the rest of his life.”
Can Ramsey save move at Hampden?
Ramsey, along with the rest of his team-mates, must dust himself down quickly with Saturday’s Scottish Cup final looming.
Van Bronckhorst has a decision on his hands whether to start him, but after a gruelling and emotionally-draining 120 minutes, freshness will likely be required.
In Ramsey, Rangers have someone who has experience in delivering in domestic cup finals. In the 31-year-old’s time at Arsenal, he netted winning goals in the 2014 (against Hull City) and 2017 (against Chelsea) FA Cup finals at Wembley.
After Wednesday’s crushing loss, pressure will mount on Saturday as defeat would mean Rangers ending the campaign without a trophy despite their European heroics.
Van Bronckhorst will now be tasked with rousing his players for the domestic season’s curtain-closer as he aims to win his first silverware as Ibrox boss.
“Of course it’s not going to be easy to get them ready,” the Dutchman added. “We are hurt and disappointed. We fly home [Thursday] and we have only one day to prepare.
“It won’t be easy but we will be ready for Saturday to end the season with a trophy.”