Midfielder | Napoli | Spain
When a player is 6’2”, straight of back and swishes and glides around midfield, the go-to word is elegant and Fabian Ruiz certainly looks like velvet lines his boots. He’s blessed with a left foot that can conjure up any pass it chooses. He moves as smoothly as the fella in your 5-a-side league who once had a trial with Tranmere. Everything is uncomplicated, or at least it’s made to look so.
He’s watchable, basically. Easy on the eye. You suspect even the tying up of his laces is done with a certain panache.
Yet these attributes – as impressive as they are – can be deceptive. In his breakthrough season for his hometown club where Ruiz was instrumental in securing Europa League football for Real Betis his tackling stats compared favourably with the out-and-out destroyers elsewhere. This then is no luxury player. This is potentially a complete midfielder.
2018 has been…
….a gradual announcement. The Sevillano’s excellent La Liga campaign brought serious interest from Barcelona but when Napoli relinquished their deep-lying playmaker Jorginho, necessity made them favourites for his signature. Soon after, the player’s €30m release clause was met.
Working under Carlo Ancelotti appealed to the sensibly guided star and given the 22-year-old’s game intelligence and ability it was always going to be a compatible pairing in Naples. One surprise came though from his positioning with many believing – understandably - that Ruiz would simply take on Jorginho’s role, stationed ahead of the rear-guard. Instead he has been unleashed, running the Partenopei engine-room usually as the most advanced of a midfield three, occasionally placed out wide in a four.
It’s early days yet but so far the signs are encouraging indeed and if the former Elche loanee can build on his initial fine form an inclusion in the Serie A Team of the Year surely beckons.
So why then has his announcement been so gradual, if a brilliant season in La Liga has been swiftly followed by an accomplished start on another European peninsula? It’s because Fabian Ruiz Pena remains consistently and universally under-rated, that’s why. Bafflingly so in fact. Perhaps he just makes things look a little too undemanding?
For his new club the remit is straightforward and the likelihood of fulfilling that remit is high. Ruiz has the chops to patrol and control Napoli’s final third for years to come.
It’s in his international aspirations where the crystal ball gets murky. Having recently seen a couple of his immediate peers promoted to the full national squad under Luis Enrique’s youthful restoration of Spain the U21 star must be wondering what else he has to do to catch the eye even amidst some stiff competition.
If Ruiz had been born in Sunderland, not Seville, then Gareth Southgate would build his team’s future around him. As it is he is still uncapped. Uncapped and under-rated, but very easy on the eye.