Just reading back over Bryan Ruiz’s career, there is a lot to puzzle over. (this is all straight from wikipedia by the way).

He started his career at Alajuelense, in the lowest Costa Rican division, and played as part of a front three.

Somehow or other this led to a move to Gent in Belgium. Here, he was captain and top scorer. He ended up with 26 goals in 78 games.

Read that again: imagine if he were made captain here… what Gent probably saw was their best player, a good, reliable teammate, and someone players respected. So why not make him captain?

Then he moved to Twente in the Dutch league. Now, we all know about the Dutch league and the goals people get there, but nevertheless, score he did, nabbing 35 in 65 games. At one point he scored in 10 straight matches. Against Sparta Rotterdam he scored a hat-trick in four minutes.

His team won the league for the first time ever. He scored 24 that season.

For Costa Rica (whose fans will need World Cup tickets by the way!) he has scored 12 in 61 games, which isn’t all that special given the circles they move in (he has scored against Panama, Haiti, Mexico, USA, Suriname, Grenada, Chile, New Zealand, Honduras) and perhaps this gives us more of a clue. (He has played five Champions League games without a goal and 12 Europa League games with similar blankness, and indeed, was substituted in six of the games).

So I don’t know. A respected scout on twitter said at the time Fulham signed him that he thought it was an odd move, and while Newcastle (and their much approved scouting network) were also in for him, perhaps in retrospect it wasn’t the greatest move for everyone. I say this as a huge fan of his, and I do believe that he has been one of our more useful players, but within the context of a relatively handy first team player, not the star people thought they were getting.

£11m or whatever he cost isn’t nothing but it is a sort of middle ground where you’re certainly not getting a star. Really it’s a going rate for a good player, which he pretty much is. The problem for Ruiz is that he’s joined a club where £11m isn’t spent on players very often and when it is, there are expectations.

There are huge positives: his goals have been things of beauty, and that is something. But it also tells its own story – where are the tap ins, the near post headers, the bundled messes that every team needs to sustain itself over a season? Has he been played in the wrong roles? Has he been playing within himself? We don’t know, can’t know, and that’s the frustration.

If he’s had barracking from Fulham fans you can bet he’d have had the same or worse from others. Like I say, I really, really like Ruiz, but if you’re trying to think about the next iteration of Fulham then you have some tough decisions to make. With Ruiz you almost need to build a system around him and run everything through him. Will we do that? Or do we forget about this season and start anew? His spectacular left foot means he can probably be sold on at a decent price, and there is a good argument that his skills would suit Spain better anyway.

Ultimately he’s just one of about 20 enigmas this season.

It’s a shame Brazil’s so far away. With Roy at the helm I’d be quite up for England tickets, and I’d definitely be cheering Bryan on, too.

7 thoughts on “Ruiz

  1. Greetings!

    I thought this was a thoroughly enjoyable piece on one of my favorite players. I’m Costa Rican and have followed Bryan’s career closely. While I agree with you central point (Bryan is a perplexing talent. He is not Messi, but he shouldn’t have to be at £11mm), there are certain things I feel compelled to point out.

    First, Alajaluense is not a lower tier club in Costa Rica. They are a perennial power house in the top the division and have many championships to their name. I believe only Saprissa has more championships won. The league had a bit more quality back when Bryan was playing there, but in recent years the league has taken a step backwards. The more skilled players have opted to play abroad in more competitive leagues. My main point here is that the traditionally strong teams in Costa Rica have become feeder clubs to other leagues in Europe. This explains how Bryan ended up playing for Gent.

    I would argue that if Bryan were Brazilian or Argentinian, he could have made the jump straight to the Dutch league based on skill. Football fans from Europe underestimate how difficult it can be to get an away result against Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, etc. Most fans don’t take into consideration variables such as altitude, air quality, heat, humidity, poor field conditions, and so on. It may not seem impressive to get a result against Jamaica, but when those guys are buzzing around the pitch under the sweltering sun, getting a win deserves more merit.

    Due to the perceive lack in quality in Central America, many players from smaller countries have to prove themselves at smaller clubs. Gent was a stepping stone, and it was not a real surprise to see Bryan perform so well with Twente. His first year at Twente he was on par with Luis Suarez in terms of success. Although Suarez scored more goals that season, Bryan’s conversion rate was much higher. He pulled the strings there, and they were rewarded with their first championship.

    His play in the Champions League was stellar in my opinion. To be fair, Twente had no business playing with the likes of Inter Milan that year, yet Bryan played well. His lack of production was more likely a byproduct of the gulf in class between Twente and its opposition – and he did end up scoring at some point…I recall a header against Benfica.

    And that leads to his time with Fulham. Similar to his experience in the Champions League, his failure to shine has much to do with the team’s overall performance. He was never going to be Fulham’s savior. He was supposed to be part of the puzzle, not a one-man goal machine. He’s a very good player and has proven his talent. His struggles in West London highlight the deficiencies of the team. The team is playing some disjointed football and Bryan can’t shoulder the load, regardless of his transfer fee. I could not agree with you more, an investment of £11m normally buys you a talented player. Unfortunately, it cannot buy you a player that can single handedly remedy Fulham’s problems. Surround Bryan with midfielders that can hold or transition the ball up the pitch, and FFC will see a better return on investment.

    1. “Football fans from Europe underestimate how difficult it can be to get an away result against Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala, etc.” – Truer words have never been written.

  2. He mutilated the US squad in a WCQ earlier this year (Costa Rica 3-1 US, payback for the snow game), at which point I concluded that Fulham just doesn’t play a system conducive to what Ruiz is good at. The Costa Rican team just runs and runs and runs, and Ruiz can basically move the ball from one arbitrary point on the pitch to another at will. They’re very dangerous and he orchestrates most of it. He excels when there’s movement around him, but in Fulham’s comparatively static attack his weaknesses are emphasized.

  3. Just catching up on your last few articles after a busy few days… Interesting that you have somewhat falling out of favour with him.

    For me it is simple: He is a No. 10, not a winger! His passing quality is not based on crosses but threw balls, and defensively he is too weak to offer enough protection to the full back.
    The other Problem is that when he has been played as No.10 he had Berbatov as partner who is not a target man (waste of space!).

    As rubbish as we were against Leicester Ruiz bossed the game the minute he come on.

    I would give anything to see him play behind Bent or Rodellega for the next couple of games.

  4. I totally agree with the costa rican poster, the team needs to be playing good football themselves in order to get the best out of bryan, watching twente a few years ago bryan was an integral part in a team that played very attractive, free flowing football and Fulham must implement a similar sort of strategy if they are going to see the Bryan Ruiz they expected to see before they signed him. Not even signing kaka for fulham could make a difference seeing the disjointed style of play we see them play nowadays, and a change in tactics and mentality will see him flourish.

  5. Bryan is being played too far back right now and is rarely on a position to strike as he is the one creating.. if you put Ruiz upfront with good midfielders he would be so much better…

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