For Aaron Ramsey there really is no place like home.
Taking in his surroundings at Cardiff City’s training centre – a base they share with the Wales national team – he cuts a relaxed figure, excited to play again after some trickier years than he would have liked.
“It feels great,” he tells Sky Sports after winning the Sky Bet Championship Goal of the Month award for August for a strike against Leicester, a first goal in 12 years for the 32-year-old at his boyhood club.
When the opportunity arose to come back to where it all started, and to be back around my family and friends, I was so excited. The timing was perfect and I’m loving every minute of it.
“When I knew there was potential to come back here I did everything I could to make it possible. I’m 20 minutes away, not too far from where I grew up. It’s nice to be back.
“I think just being away from my family had a big impact. When I was in Scotland and France they stayed here, and that was really difficult for me.”
After leaving Arsenal in 2019, Ramsey headed to Juventus. However, in his three years there he managed just 25 Serie A starts and five goals.
Injuries were a problem, as they so often have been during his career. But he has no regrets.
“Obviously staying fit was an issue at times, and things like injuries meant I couldn’t really get any consistency going,” he says.
“But overall I’m proud of what I achieved there and grateful for the experience of playing for one of the powerhouses of Europe. I won everything I could.
“And to enjoy the Italian culture was a brilliant experience for me and my family.”
Last season he tried his luck in France with Nice. Again, however, injuries restricted him to just 18 Ligue 1 starts.
“It was a good experience for me, and a good opportunity to play in Europe,” he says. “There were a few other Brits there as well. They were great with me there. I can’t fault them for anything. I was grateful for the opportunity to play there.”
Ramsey has made a good start to life back in the Championship. He has two goals so far in his five appearances, and has been impressed by the quality of the league, and how far it has come on since he last played in it in 2011.
“A lot more teams are trying to play out from the back, whereas it was a bit more direct when I was last here,” he says.
“Obviously the quality has got a lot stronger, and the teams that have come down are very strong. It’s an exciting league.
“There are still some games that’ll be physical and a bit more direct. We have to be able to get stuck in and stand up to whatever is in front of us.”
Up next, meanwhile, is the biggest game of all for Cardiff. They face Swansea, their South Wales rivals, at home on Saturday night – live on Sky Sports Football from 7.30pm.
Ramsey has tasted this fixture before. Back in February 2011, while back on loan at the club from Arsenal, he assisted the winner for Craig Bellamy to win 1-0 on enemy territory.
“It was a great day for us, playing the way we did and winning the game,” he recalls. “They are incredible occasions to be a part of. To win makes them even more special.”
This is Ramsey’s first taste of the rivalry at home. More significantly, a fixture that was once as evenly-balanced as it comes has tilted dramatically towards Swansea in recent times.
For nearly 100 years until 2021 neither side had done the double over the other in one season. Since, Swansea have won four in a row.
Ramsey is determined to put that right.
“It’s all set up nicely,” he says. “For us to come away with a win would be huge for us and the fans, because it’s been a difficult few years.
“It hasn’t been good enough for too long and we owe it to them to put in a performance. It’s up to us to come away with a result.”
And beyond a derby result? Ramsey has one or two other clear ambitions…
“The Premier League is the best in the world and I’ve certainly missed it the last few years,” he says.
“I want to try and help get Cardiff back into the Premier League. The club has had a taste of it a couple of times and that’s where we aspire to be again.
There’s a lot of excitement building around the club. I don’t think we’re too far away, we just need to get bit of consistency going.”
And should they ever get there, he wouldn’t mind a return to lead his side out at Arsenal. Or maybe even sooner if the draw is kind in the FA Cup – a competition he won three times with the Gunners, scoring the winner in the final in 2014 and 2017.
“That would be nice!” he says. “Strange things like this can happen. Who knows, maybe we’ll get them in the third round.”