This article is part of Football FanCast’s Transfer Focus series, which provides opinion and analysis on recent transfer news…
Even though the transfer market won’t be open for business until January, the big clubs are still hard at work and looking ahead to the next window. According to Mundo Deportivo, Barcelona will be heavily scouting Napoli’s 23-year-old ace, Fabian Ruiz, with an intent to possibly scoop him up next summer.
This would indeed be a good move but one that could very easily indicate Ivan Rakitic’s time in Catalonia is truly coming to an end.
The notion that Rakitic could leave Barcelona is hardly news at this point. The last we’ve heard about it, however, was in the Italian press when they claimed Juventus will look to secure his services as early as January. The titans from Turin apparently tried to land him in the summer as well but with no success.
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But if Ruiz really is one of Barcelona’s targets, that can only mean one thing: Rakitic is surely heading out the exit door.
It’s highly unlikely that Barca would bring in a new midfielder to an already overcrowded area without selling at least one player. And looking at Ruiz as Rakitic’s possible replacement, he does seem like a perfect player to join the squad.
Mundo Deportivo also claim that this is not the first time Barcelona have been connected to the 23-year-old midfielder. In fact, they could’ve had him two times before but opted out of the deal on both occasions, with interest first manifesting in 2017. The Catalan outlet also emphasises that this time around they would be happy to get him for a fee under €60m (£53.7m).
But the quality is certainly there. Last season, Ruiz scored five goals and assisted three in a total of 27 games in Serie A, which is something Rakitic also often does as one of the highest-scoring midfielders at Barcelona. Last season, he bagged three goals and five assists in La Liga so the output is quite similar, to say the least.
And Ruiz does a lot more than just score and assist, too. Last season he averaged 89.8% passing accuracy and 2.3 key passes per game in Serie A and he’s set to continue the trend into the new campaign with 91.2% passing accuracy and two key passes on average already under his belt, per Whoscored. His defensive work should also not be disregarded, as he averaged 2 tackles per Serie A game last season.
The final two boxes he ticks are versatility and youth. Ruiz has been known to operate in a conventional midfield position, in a more advanced number ten role, and in a wide left-sided role.
And at just 23 years old, he is bound to continue improving in Catalonia.
On paper, this indeed sounds like a great deal for Barcelona and they shouldn’t miss out on this player for the third time.