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.