Julio Ricardo Cruz (born 10 October 1974 in Santiago del Estero) is an Argentine footballer who currently is a free agent.
A tall, physical striker at 1.90 m (6 ft 3 in), Cruz started his career with Banfield in 1993. He moved to River Plate in 1996.
In 1997, he moved to Europe, being signed by Feyenoord, and showing a great potential in terms of scoring proficiency. He then moved in 2000 to Bologna.
At Bologna, under the management of Francesco Guidolin, Cruz was mainly used as a lone striker. While he was often derided by fans and the media alike for his lack of goalscoring proficiency, he did prove to be extremely apt at holding the ball up in order to bring the other attackers into the game. In 2001–02, he played an integral part in Bologna's 7th-placed finish in Serie A, and while he only netted ten goals in the league, he earnt back the respect of his critics for his intelligent and passionate football.
On 31 July 2009, Cruz left Internazionale and signed with Lazio on a two-year contract as free agent, but also paid €2.15 million sign-on fees.At the end of 2009–10 season, Lazio mutually terminated the contract, as Cruz was suffering from injury.
Cruz has twenty two caps and four goals for Argentina. He participated in the 2006 World Cup, coming on as a late substitute in the matches against the Netherlands and Germany. He scored the opening penalty in the penalty shoot-outs against Germany, but Argentina lost 4–2 on penalties.
Cruz's nickname, El Jardinero (Spanish for "the gardener"), was given to him at an early age. He was working as a groundskeeper for local team Banfield in 1993 when he was summoned by Oscar López to fill in for a missing player one day for a practice match. Upon noticing his talent, Banfield signed Cruz, and the nickname was born.