When Martin Jol delightedly announced Fulham’s signing of Bryan Ruiz from FC Twente at the end of the 2011 summer transfer window, it was very much seen as a coup for the West London outfit.
At £10.6m, Ruiz was hardly cheap but he arrived at Craven Cottage as the recent Dutch Player of the Year having led Twente to an unlikely title in the 2009-10 season. Indeed, such was Ruiz’s talent that both Tottenham and Newcastle were extremely keen to secure his signature.
However, though he has been indulged by Fulham supporters and particularly by Jol, who sees the Costa Rican as a key member of his first team squad, Ruiz has been a pretty abject disappointment ever since his arrival. His debut against Blackburn, which saw Ruiz removed at half time, set the tone for a desperate campaign that saw him only score twice and none at all in 2012 before a broken foot ended his season in April.
This season was supposed to be a different story. Not only did Ruiz have a full season of Premier League football and importantly a pre-season training campaign behind him, the departures of Moussa Dembele and Clint Dempsey paved the way for Ruiz to become the cornerstone of Fulham’s attack. Last season, Ruiz often appeared marginalised and on the edges of matches, but his abilities with the ball almost demand his constant involvement.
In fairness to the 27-year-old, the campaign started brightly enough, particularly with his stellar performances first in the opening day 5-0 destruction over Norwich and then in the defeat at Manchester United the following weekend. Ruiz may have failed to get on the scoresheet but at least there appeared to be a spark to his play and a physicality that he often lacked last season, leaving him brushed off the ball too easily at times.
However, injury intervened once again, and with the signing of Dimitar Berbatov – brought in to be the focal point of the Cottagers’ attacking play – Ruiz appears to be on the fringes of matters once again.
Observers of the Eredivise will proclaim that at Twente, Ruiz was the complete forward – able to create and score almost at will. His goals were not always things of beauty either with his repertoire including a fantastic aerial ability. The problem is that in the Premier League, Ruiz simply appears too soft to play in his preferred central position.
In the Dutch league, Ruiz’s height and skill on the ball enabled him to handle most of what was thrown at him. However, in England, height can only get you so far and where the Costa Rican had time to do whatever he wanted in Holland, the ball is often whisked away from his feet in an instant at Craven Cottage.
Martin Jol will be hoping that with the arrival of Berbatov will just take the pressure off Ruiz somewhat and bring the best out of his expensive front-man.
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