Call this a typical World Cup-year move, because for Costa Rican Bryan Ruiz, this is all about playing time. With his national team headed to Brazil this summer, the Ticos’ captain needs more than the spot duty he’s seen at Craven Cottage. As a result, two-and-a-half years after becoming Fulham’s record signing, the 28-year-old is moving back to the Eredivisie, joining PSV through the end of the season.
“The name Bryan Ruiz speaks for itself,” PSV technical director Marcel Brands said at Wednesday’s unveiling. “We attempted to sign him last summer and tried again this winter but it was still hard work … “
Ruiz had been connected with a loan move to Spanish Primera División side Real Betis. Instead, he returns to the Eredivisie, where he won a league title with FC Twente in 2009-2010. In 65 league games with the Enschede-based club, Ruiz scored 35 times, earning him a $17 million move to Fulham in August 2011.
This season, Ruiz had made 12 of 21 possible appearances for Fulham, seeing only 772 minutes for a team that’s transitioned from Martin Jol to René Meulensteen as manager. Since Jol was fired on Dec. 1, Ruiz has played six times, but without a goal since Sept. 28, the attacking midfielder has been allowed to go out on loan.
“When the opportunity arose I was interested,” Ruiz told PSV’s official website. “I want to get my confidence back, help PSV finish as high as possible and prepare for the World Cup.”
After four straight top-three finishes, PSV currently sit a disappointing seventh in the Dutch first division. Led in goals by 19-year-old Memphis Decay, Phillip Cocu’s team does not have a player who has found the net more than six times, something Ruiz’s production at FC Twente suggests he will remedy.
In his first year in Enschede, Ruiz scored 24 league goals, leading his team to the 2009-10 Eredivisie title. Next year, Twente finished second while claiming the Dutch Cup, Ruiz continuing to make good on the $7.7 million investment that brought him from Belgium’s Gent in July 2009.
To date, Ruiz has failed to pay similar dividends for Fulham, having scored seven times in 68 Premier League appearances. Still, in announcing the move on their website, the Cottagers emphasized its temporary nature, hinting they expect Ruiz to be back with the team after the World Cup.
“Everyone at Fulham would like to wish the Costa Rica captain well during his temporary spell in the Netherlands,” according to FulhamFC.com.
In the interim, Ruiz gets to play himself back into form, something that will be needed if Costa Rica stands a chance of getting out of a stacked World Cup group. Although the Ticos can also rely on Álvaro Saborío and Joel Campbell for goals, Ruiz provides some needed dynamism and creativity from midfield. Against the likes of England, Italy, and Uruguay in Group D, his ability to create chances down the right will be crucial to Costa Rican hopes of pulling off at least one upset.
Moving to PSV gives Ruiz a chance to hit the ground running come Brazil. It also gives him a chance to gain the confidence that could put his Fulham career back on track. Whether that career continues in the Premier League or Championship remains to be seen, but over the second half of the season, Ruiz’s bigger concern will be getting PSV closer to the top in Holland.