PROSPECT | Abel Ruiz

Abel Ruiz is the top scorer in the history of the Spanish U17 national team with 27 goals. The Spain striker is a European U17 and U19 champion, and a runner-up in the U17 World Cup. Luis Enrique started the Sporting de Braga player in Spain’s 4-0 win over Georgia in Badajoz on Sunday night.

Abel Ruiz came through the youth system at Valencia. At Valencia, he always played with academy players a year older and, among others, featured alongside Ferran Torres and Hugo Guillamón in the club’s underage setup.

At the age of 12, he had to make the first big decision of his life. Real Madrid and Barcelona knocked on his door and his parents gave him a choice. Abel Ruiz made the decision to join Barcelona, a decision he took after a kind of survey among his closest friends at school. In his first year in Barcelona, he shared a flat with Ansu Fati and at that time his idol was David Villa, whom he met during his time at La Masia and who, curiously enough, is now one of the partners of the agency that represents him.

Ernesto Valverde gave him his first-team debut on 12 May 2019, in a match against Getafe. By then Valencia, during Mateu Alemany’s time at the club, tried to get him back, although Barcelona made a move and renewed his deal until 2021.

His time at the Catalan club came to an end in January 2020. Braga bet on the future of Abel Ruiz, signing him on loan with a mandatory option to buy for €8 million. The Valencian player became the most expensive signing in the history of the Portuguese club. Barcelona, who have recently signed forwards Sergio Agüero and Luuk de Jong, did not include a buy-back option in Abel Ruiz’s contract. At just 21, has become a full international for Spain.

Abel Ruiz experienced a difficult 2020 in Braga. He only played eight games (one as a starter) in which he scored two goals, however, his situation changed in January 2021. During that winter window, Valencia, Celta Vigo, Almería and Sporting Gijón were interested in signing him on loan. The departure of Paulino, Braga’s first-choice striker, meant he couldn’t leave the club and he subsequently consolidated his place in the team.

Braga manager Carlos Carvalhal began to place his faith in him and Abel Ruiz responded with goals and assists. In 44 games under the Portuguese coach at Braga, he scored 12 goals and provided seven assists. Among them were seven goals and three assists in the 2021 Portuguese Cup. Sporting de Braga went on to win the competition and the in-form Ruiz finished top scorer of the tournament and was voted man of the match in the final against Benfica.

Speaking in an interview with Marca, Carvalhal discussed the striker’s recent improvement. “Abel has grown in very important aspects for a striker. Now he is more direct, more aggressive, his reading and ability to understand the game is getting better and better. The Abel of today breaks into space and is able to go toe-to-toe with rival centre-backs. Of course, he is still at an age where he can improve, because he is very young. Abel listens and is willing to work to get better every day.

With us, he has played in a line of four behind the striker, on the left. And I like that position a lot because of the number of advantageous situations he is able to generate for the team. Who does he play like? I don’t know, I’d say he has a bit of Raúl about him, but he’s not the same type of player,” Carvalhal added.

Abel Ruiz played the full 90 minutes in Spain’s victory over Georgia at the weekend and could feature again against Kosovo on Wednesday.

More European Football News