|In Sergio Ruiz, Charlotte FC signed its model team player|
|Spanish midfielder first has high upside|
|Published Friday, July 31, 2020 3:28 pm|
|COURTESY RACING SANTANDER|
|Sergio Ruiz, Charlotte FC's first player signing, will spend the 2021 campaign on loan, preferably in the second-division Spanish Segunda or English Championship.|
Club Sporting Director Zoran Krneta said they are building their roster around the versatile central midfielder, who was signed earlier this month.
“Sergio is the first building block of our future team,” Krneta said.
Said Ruiz: “I’m excited to be part of a new club.”
Ruiz was announced as Charlotte’s inaugural signing on July 8. Eleven days later, Major League Soccer announced the club would begin play in 2022 rather than 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Tepper Sports and Entertainment President Tom Glick said the club will continue to sign players who will spend 2021 on loan, with Krneta targeting the English and Spanish second division for players to develop.
“The Spanish Segunda and the English Championship are by far the strongest second divisions in the world,” Krneta said. “I would probably put them in front of most the top leagues in Belgium and Holland. They’re really competitive—very strong leagues. Segunda is as competitive, if not better than most of the MLS teams.”
Said Ruiz: “I would like to play in England or Spain in a team who is growing.”
Ruiz is familiar with the Spanish second division. Charlotte FC signed the 25-year-old Spanish midfielder from the league’s Racing Santander, which he joined in 2015 and most recently served as captain. Ruiz scored six goals and seven assists during the 2018-19 campaign. Ruiz also played in Spain’s third division for Club Deportivo Pontejos and Atlético Albericia. His youth career began with Club Deportivo Arenas de Frajanas, followed by Atlético Perines and Club Deportivo Laredo.
Krneta said Charlotte knew of Ruiz for a while and scouted him for months. They decided he was the right candidate for signing because he fit what they’re looking for as a leader on and off the pitch.
“We’ve done a lot of homework on who Sergio Ruiz is—his lifestyle, his habits, his character as a person—not only as a player,” Krneta said. “We really want to bring players who fit what we want to create here.”
Ruiz also appealed to them because he has room for development and can play numerous positions. Charlotte MLS Scouting Director Thomas Schaling described Ruiz as a preferential box-to-box midfielder in a three-man midfield. However, Ruiz can play in a two-man midfield.
“In 2022, [I’m] going to Charlotte to do my best and help the team achieve trophies, to achieve wins and be part of a great team,” he said.
Said Krneta: “Sergio can play several positions within a team. More-or-less, we think he can play anything across the midfield three. That gives us great options and variety in choosing where to play.”
Ruiz’s transfer fee cost the club $849,498.75 and one of their eight international roster spots. His signing took place during the MLS two-day transfer window prior to the 2020 MLS is Back tournament in Orlando.
“We knew when we signed him that there were a number of clubs who were also interested in him, [but] because of the pandemic and the challenges to the economy, a number of the clubs were not able to afford to make the purchase… but are able to pay Sergio’s salary on loan. That enabled us an opening to go in and get Sergio, which was great. So we pounced on that opportunity.”
Charlotte had interest from six clubs to loan Ruiz when they signed him. That grew to a dozen clubs by the time Charlotte announced the team’s name on July 22. While playing time is essential to keeping Ruiz match fit and helping him develop leading up to the 2022 season, Glick and Krneta want to be meticulous in their decision about where to send him.
“Those choices are going to be really important to get right because we want to make sure that Sergio gets playing time, he plays in the right system and it’s a city and within a club where he is going to personally thrive,” Glick said. “This will be a really important decision but based on the clubs that have shown interest already, we know that we have some really good options in a couple of different countries where he will play in a league that would definitely help him develop.”
Charlotte intends to build around their signings around the spine of a team—positions such as central defender, a defensive central midfielder, an offensive central midfielder and striker.
“This is what we might be potentially looking at adding on in the coming window, but having said this COVID-19, in addition to making life difficult for all of us, it also is presenting some interesting opportunities. If there is an opportunity for us to get the player on a discounted price in terms of the transfer fee and the salary, then we will need to look at that.”
Glick said the club is focused on the Aug. 11 transfer window for additional signings and intend to follow the same model for loaning players as the one they have laid out for Ruiz.
“We want to be ready to hit the ground running on the 11th,” Glick said. “There’s work going on right now on a couple of targets that we think are very interesting. That’s going to be a core focus of what we do.”
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