James Horncastle profiles Bologna's Uruguay international starlet and Manchester City target Gaston Ramirez
The Press officer at Bologna is mimicking a donkey for the benefit of Gaston Ramirez. The 20-year-old prodigy has been asked to name the city's famous twin towers, one of which is named after Eeyore and his fellow beasts of burden. The blank expression Ramirez wears indicates that he has no idea. Next question: Who is Bologna's honorary President? The Press officer whispers: "Gianni Morandi," but to no avail. Ramirez clearly still has a lot to learn about his new surroundings. Incidentally, he also thinks Silvio Berlusconi is Italy's Vice-President.
Ramirez can of course be forgiven. The son of a bricklayer and middle child in a family of five brothers and two sisters, he has only ever been focused on one thing and that's his football. "I didn't finish school because I joined the team of my heart Peñarol early and represented Uruguay from a young age," Ramirez told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "There was too much travelling to do and too many absences from class."
Luckily a strong Uruguayan contingent at Bologna comprised of Miguel Britos, Diego Perez, Henry Gimenez and Bruno Montelongo are around to educate and protect their richly talented compatriot. "We organise dinners based around asado, our grilled meat," Ramirez says. "We don't get it sent from Uruguay. We go shopping at Carrefour. The most important thing to understand is how we want it cut – it must be sectioned off horizontally, between the ribs of the animal, not vertically."
When he isn't barbecuing at home, Bologna's left-sided attacker is moving around opposition defences with such fleet of foot that his style of play calls to mind the salsa. "It's a typical Uruguayan dance," Ramirez says. "We all dance. But Gimenez is a lot better at it than me." Even so, Ramirez still managed to leave Alessandro Lucarelli in a spin when Bologna travelled to Parma back in December.
The centre-back felt he'd got the better of his opponent midway through the first half, getting tight to Ramirez and hassling him to within an inch of the touchline. But just as the ball was about to go out of play, the young playmaker held off his marker and drew inspiration from the previous owners of Bologna's No 10 shirt, the two Robertos – Mancini and Baggio. He dragged the ball back and flicked it around Lucarelli with his instep all in one thrilling movement, earning an Olé from the travelling Bologna supporters.
Goals followed against Lazio, Cagliari and Lecce, all of which displayed fine technique and confirmed the suspicion that Ramirez is very much a part of a golden generation in Uruguayan football, one that's headed in Italy by Napoli striker Edinson Cavani and his former Palermo teammate Abel Hernandez. "You'll see that within two years, he will be on Alexis Sanchez's level," said Bologna director of sport Carmine Longo. "For this reason, we're not selling Gaston. His price will treble."
Manchester City reportedly sent scouts to the Renato Dall'Ara to watch Ramirez at the weekend, only for the player dubbed the new Pavel Nedved to be left on the bench. One can only presume they'll be back soon.