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Barcelona and Real Madrid set for transfer war over Fabian Ruiz

2:30 am AEDT 16/10/19
Fabian Ruiz Napoli
The Clasico rivals are both big admirers of the Napoli man, with the Blaugrana making the player their number one midfield target

Barcelona and Real Madrid are set to go head to head in a battle to sign Napoli star Fabian Ruiz.

Both Barca and Madrid are in the market for a new central midfielder and have singled out the 23-year-old as a top transfer target.

The Spain international has developed into one of Europe’s most admired midfielders since joining Napoli from Real Betis for €30 million (£26m/$33m) in 2018.

He has since scored eight goals in 48 games for the Partenopei and become one of the standout players in Serie A.

Barcelona plan to make a number of changes in midfield over the next two transfer windows, with Ivan Rakitic the most high-profile player set to leave when the right offer arrives.

The Blaugrana already attempted to sign Fabian Ruiz in 2017, making him a €2m offer to join the club’s B team.

However, former Betis sporting director Lorenzo Serra Ferrer rejected the offer and Barca are now set to return with a new, big-money offer.

Madrid are also looking to renew their ageing midfield, with Luka Modric in the final year of his contract and Toni Kroos turning 30 in the new year.

The Blancos weighed up a series of high-profile midfielders in the summer - including Paul Pogba, Christian Eriksen and Donny van de Beek - and Zinedine Zidane considers the midfield department a problem area.

Napoli have no intention of selling Fabian Ruiz in January and plan to offer the midfielder a new, improved contract with a release clause that could exceed €100m (£87m/$110m).

The Italian club’s president, Aurelio De Laurentiis, is also notoriously difficult to do business with and the film producer currently endures a terse relationship with Real Madrid following a failed move for James Rodriguez this summer.

Madrid had been unwilling to let James join Napoli on loan with an option to buy – despite agreeing personal terms – a decision that angered De Laurentiis.

This could give Barcelona the upper hand in any transfer tug of war between the Clasico rivals.

Fabian Ruiz made his international debut this year and has recently emerged as a starter for Spain during their Euro 2020 qualification programme.

A cultured and elegant midfielder with a powerful left-footed shot, Fabian Ruiz is capable of playing in a number of midfield roles and formations.

He has featured regularly as both a holding and attacking central midfielder, as a left midfielder, and also in two and three-man midfield systems.

A fan favourite at Napoli, he endeared himself to the supporters of his former club Betis with the manner in which he departed the club in 2018.

Before leaving, he signed a new contract with a release clause of €30m so that Betis would receive double the transfer fee from Napoli.

This was to repay the club after they gave his mother a job as a cleaner some years earlier, an act of kindness that allowed Fabian Ruiz to keep playing football in the youth academy.

Fabian Ruiz was also named as the Golden Player of the 2019 Uncer-21 European Championship, scoring twice as Spain won the tournament.