Napoli midfielder Fabián Ruiz has been an integral cog in the Neapolitan machine since his arrival from Real Betis four years ago.
The Spaniard, who isn’t the quickest but possesses a full range of passing, quickly settled into life in Serie A and became pivotal under Carlo Ancelotti, Gennaro Gattuso and Luciano Spalletti.
Over the last four years, he’s played 166 games for Napoli, scoring 22 goals and providing 15 assists. Ruiz helped Napoli beat Juventus to lift the Coppa Italia in 2020, winning his first major piece of silverware.
However, as his contract has been winding down over the last 12 months, speculation has mounted that his days in Italy are numbered. His contract is due to run out next summer, and this has fuelled reports that Napoli are ready to cash in on Ruiz now, with it considered unlikely that he will sign an extension.
Many in the Napoli camp are reportedly disgruntled with how they folded under the pressure when a first league title in 32 years was theirs for the taking. The mentality of the club has been questioned, and many of the experienced players are considering leaving.
Lorenzo Insigne has already departed, having signed for MLS side Toronto FC. Kalidou Koulibaly and Dries Mertens are others said to be unhappy with the club.
Revolution is in the air in Naples, and Ruiz’s departure could help fund new signings.
Reports in England suggest that Arsenal and Newcastle are interested in bringing Ruiz to the Premier League, as well as Man City and Manchester United. The Daily Mail suggests that the midfielder has been effectively transfer listed, with a £26m price tag placed on his head. Could Liverpool be another club to generate interest in the 26-year-old?
Liverpool have experience of Ruiz and his qualities before, having met Napoli in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Champions League group stages. Ruiz sparkled on several occasions against The Reds, and no doubt Jürgen Klopp, will have remembered how Ruiz controlled the away game against Napoli in September 2019, when they won 2-0.
Yet does that mean he’s a good fit for Liverpool?
Ruiz’s languid style of play would be ill-suited to the kind of football Klopp likes Liverpool to play, but there could be room for him as a Thiago Alcântara alternative, or at least a vice-Thiago in case the 31-year-old is unavailable.
Ruiz could help Liverpool control games against the bigger sides, when perhaps they might not see as much of the ball as they would against smaller sides. Ruiz is always very composed and measured on the ball, never in a hurry to get rid of it. This was the primary reason Thiago was signed two summers ago, and seems to be the direction of travel for Klopp’s Liverpool midfield.
At 26, Ruiz could ostensibly slowly take over from Thiago in serving that purpose, despite not being as good as the former Bayern Munich man.
Moreover, if Liverpool could sign him for around £20m-£25m, then it would be a low-cost gamble. If it didn’t work out, he could always be sold on, most likely for profit.
But it’s unlikely Liverpool will get involved in the race to sign him, at least this summer. Klopp has even younger pretenders to Thiago’s throne in Harvey Elliott and potentially Fábio Carvalho, and even a bargain transfer fee probably won’t tempt him into blocking their progress.