Daniel Ruíz at Millonarios 2022 – scout report
Colombia has enjoyed some technically-gifted players throughout their history. Carlos Valderrama, James Rodríguez, Juan Fernando Quintero, Radamel Falcao and more recently, Luis Fernando Díaz, to take these examples. We all know the South-American football playing style, that street and skilly ‘fútbol’ that has been disappearing through the years.
Millonarios FC is enjoying one of the most promising and technical young players of the league. At only 21 years old, Daniel Ruíz arrived at the ‘Ambassadors’ in 2020 from Fortaleza, a second-tier club, where he made his first appearance as a professional footballer, and ended his final season with 8 assists in the league before catching the eye of Millonarios, one of the best football teams in Colombia.
Born in 2001, Daniel Ruíz usually plays as a left-winger. Being a natural left-footer is strange to see in modern football, but he’s really one of a kind. He’s played over 5,000 minutes in the first division of Colombia with Millonarios. It wasn’t easy for him to get into the first team, but he was so impressive in those few minutes that the decision was a no-brainer.
Former Colombian player, Alberto Gamero, likes his team to be intense and press very high on the pitch, applying a defensive mentality in each one of his players, from his strikers to the goalkeeper. With the ball, his team looks to progress calmly and on the inside. They play a 4-4-2 with a traditional winger on the right, and an inside-winger on the left. The midfielders and defenders are so technically-gifted players that make it easy for their teammates to find the ball and create opportunities, because of their great vertical passes, or turns.
They’re based on a positional play style that looks to create numerical superiorities all over the place, but usually on the left side. Their off-the-ball movements are one of the keys to success. Strikers move into the wing, wingers into the middle, full-backs exchange half-spaces and wide areas frequently or midfielders arrive at the penalty box from behind. Millonarios sit in the first position of the league with five victories and three draws in eight games; Scoring 12 goals and only conceding four, they’re the second-highest goalscorers in the tournament, and also the one who concedes the least.
Ruíz on paper sets on the pitch on the left flank. He has the liberty and capacity to exchange positions frequently during the game. You can see him receiving the ball very close to the throw-in line, or playing as an attacking midfielder, releasing all the wide area to his full-back to attack.
He’s also very proactive when dropping to the first line of the build-up phase of the team, and it helps them to progress with his quality to carry the ball, or find teammates between the lines.
Also, Gamero likes to make a side-change for their wingers in some stages of the games. There you can see the positions change but roles are still the same: Ruíz plays as an inside-winger with proactive moves in and out. In this position, you can tell he’s more comfortable but the surprising product playing on the left loses a bit of magic.
Daniel’s an associative and progressive winger that can surely be transformed into an attacking midfielder.
One of Ruíz’s top attributes is what he can do with the ball on his feet. The way he helps his team to progress and creates advantages (positional and qualitative) is so good. He’s a privileged left-footed player that has a great vision to find teammates between the lines or make runs to be activated to the space.
Here, you can see Daniel making a cheap pass to his free teammate between the lines. Then he received again and he opened the game to the wings. Where they could send a dangerous cross that almost gets a header.
Daniel’s also a great dribbler. The creativity to escape from locked zones when he’s defended by two or more players is something amazing. He has the agility, mentally and physically, to quickly look for the solution to problems in this kind of situation.
He’s the smartest in the class. He shows it every time with his one-two passes where he releases the ball and immediately looks for space to be newly detected. He has created a good synergy with his full-back, as he knows when to free the wide area for him, or for the full-back to appear in the half-space.
His decision-making is very good and you can see why. Almost all young players would try to run and shoot or would retain the ball and be intercepted or tackled, but here, he appears in an attacking transition through the middle. He scans his options and sends a pass that Carlos Gómez converted into an assist.
One of the keys to his playing style is the way he controls the ball. He has a big repertoire where he can make an oriented-ball control, fainting with his body to go to the other side or turn 180 to 360°. You’ll notice one thing if you see Daniel: He’s not going to do a turnover or a bad reception. And this is all thanks to his scanning. He’s already made everything clear on his mind before he takes the ball.
Ruíz is an associative and progressive winger that can surely be transformed into an attacking midfielder, just like the former AS Monaco, Everton, and Real Madrid midfielder James Rodríguez or Juan Fernando Quintero had done in the past. You might think this is because of his ability to make through balls in different types of ways. He’s a very dangerous player that knows when to execute these progressive and threatening passes between the lines, and he does it with tense, sensible passes that always arrive perfectly to their teammates.
In the picture above, Daniel was previously making a great turn in the half-space and then he sent this lethal ball to his striker, which ended up assisting the other teammate making a third man run to the box.
Another tool that he uses is carrying the ball, mostly when he’s playing on the right or when he drops to the build-up. He adds some good carries that help the team to activate the weak side of the pitch and clear the congested areas. Sometimes he retains the ball more than he should. He might harm his team with these.
We can see that Daniel was having a long-retention ball moment in the game. He started in the right half-space and he ended up on the wing where a defender threw him down to stop him.
To conclude with this in-possession section, Ruiz can be defined as a short-associative player that likes to break through the lines with his passes, drops to the midfielders line, dribbles and carries the ball from one flank to another. You can call him an attacking midfielder, or how they do it in South America, a ’10’, precisely the number he wears on the back.
Ruíz is slowly getting better in these long-distance shots that can be so useful to whatever team he plays for. Normally, you don’t see Daniel looking constantly to score goals, but when he tries, it could be really important for Millonarios, that aggressivity could be pivotal in the evolution of his game.
Against Atlético Nacional, in the ‘Colombian Clásico’, he scored a beautiful goal in the right top corner of the goalkeeper. He receives a pass at the edge of the penalty box. Then he fainted the shot with his right and scored a beauty with his left. A smart off-the-ball movement link with his top technical qualities.
But scoring goals is not one of the best aspects of the 21-year-old player, assists are. He has amazed the league with his key passes that end up being the ones that lead to a goal. He’s so important to Gamero’s team at this as no one has more assists on the Millonarios squad than Ruíz. As said before, he registered 8 in his last season in the second-tier, before he joined the Colombian top-side.
In the picture below, we can see the second of three assists he did in a match against Fortaleza in the Colombian Cup. Where he chipped a brilliant curved pass onto the striker.
Daniel’s also a great crosser. He doesn’t try it too much, but when he does, he can create very good chances for his strikers.
Something remarkable about Daniel is that he’s very good at set pieces. When he’s on the pitch, only he is taking the corners and free-kicks. He has registered over 3 assists from corners.
He has 6 goals and 8 assists in all competitions in 2022, all of them scored inside the penalty box.
Off the ball
Daniel Ruíz’s ability to be found between the lines when he appears in the half-space is very good. Then, you can see that he’s also an intelligent player to make a run behind the full-backs. Sometimes you can see him trying to receive the ball behind the midfielders, leaving the half-space and appearing in the central area.
In the picture above we can see Daniel Ruíz appearing as the third man in this defence-to-attack transition, activating behind the full-backs.
His intensity off the ball is remarkable. The deployment during the minutes he’s on the pitch are so important for the defensive phase of Millonarios. They look to firstly attack the centre-backs with their two strikers. Then, if the ball comes to the full-back, Ruíz comes to try and tackle him to recover the ball. He makes shadow-covering and knows when to pull the trigger to pressure or to cover the receiver.
Even when the team is forced to put a low block, Daniel’s very committed to getting down and helping the left back, making a tandem that makes attackers very difficult to try and pass it on.
We can see in the picture above that he’s making a top recovery in a very dangerous zone. At this time, he was shadowing the man behind him, waiting to pull the trigger if the full-back was going to receive the ball.
You can go easy on his weaknesses, height and weight. He’s not a tall player and, which obviously needs to improve his physique. That is because defenders could lay him down easily if he goes for a duel. But, he compensates for these natural weaknesses with great attributes on and off the ball.
You must know that Ruíz also has to improve his long retentions, which could mean risky losses for his team. His right foot is non-existent. He doesn’t even try to shoot, control or pass with his right foot. He should change that.
In possession, he’s not good with side-to-side long-balls that other wingers do. He tries a lot and doesn’t give them the right strength in the execution.
As said before, he must try adding more outside-of-the-box shots.
Daniel Ruíz is an exciting young player. He surely is going to be flying to Europe in the next six to 12 months. His decision-making is on a top level, as discussed throughout this analysis, which can be weird to see on South-American teams. Daniel may be one of the best U-23 players in the country, even the continent. He could play on the left and the right and that versatility on the pitch will be crucial for him in the future. Personally, we believe he could play in midfield because of his tight-space ability, something we have seen before with players like James Rodríguez or Juan Fernando Quintero.