New-look Wolves Have the Spine for Successful Premier League Stint6 min read
It had all the ingredients to turn into an unmitigated disaster.
Foreign investors who might not know too much about football.
An attempt to assemble a new team in double quick time.
Signings and a manager that had no experience of English football.
A link to a high-rolling agent who may only be interested in making money.
Yet the intricacies of Wolverhampton Wanderers’ ‘new look’ are so much more than all the above.
That’s why Wolves come into the 2018-19 season with massive optimism.
This is reflected in the betting – the Midlands side are just for a top 10 Premier League finish and are to end the season in the top 6.
Patricio coup is significant
Rui Patricio, Portugal’s number 1 goalkeeper, signing for Wolves is something that sounds just surreal.
Outside of the Champions League, he has been one of the most impressive shot stoppers in Europe in recent seasons.
He was named in the Europa League Squad of the Season last term as Sporting were edged out by Atletico Madrid in the semi-final.
As well as this, the 30-year-old was one of Portugal’s outstanding performers at Euro 2016 – helping the nation to their first ever major international tournament.
One of Patricio’s saves against Antoine Griezmann in the final of the tournament was regarded so important and impressive that a statue was unveiled in the Portguese city of Leiria to immortalise the moment.
Bearing this in mind, it’s crazy to think that the goalkeeper chose to make the move to Molineux – he would have had offers from Europe’s top clubs.
Although uncertainty lingers over whether a transfer fee will have to be paid to Patricio’s former club Sporting, but either way it is some deal.
Moutinho and other signings signal success
Patricio’s international teammate João Moutinho is another new Wolves addition who is a recognisable name for most football fans.
After being constantly linked to Tottenham for a number of years, Moutinho will be playing in the Premier League for the first time this season – and he certainly doesn’t lack experience.
Since making his debut for Sporting in 2005-06, the central midfielder has appeared in at least 26 matches at club level every season.
Moutinho was made Sporting’s vice-captain at the age of just 19 – his playing style is mature, if not extravagant, and he should have no problems adapting to English football such is his intelligence.
He is the third most capped player in Portuguese history and will be able to lead by example – his experience will be key in Wolves’ top flight campaign.
Other signings include the trio who suceeded on loan in the Championship last season: top scorer Diogo Jota, fellow attacker Léo Bonatini & highly-rated centre back Willy Boly.
The spine of the team looks pretty solid and it will be important for Wolves to maintain belief if they do get off to a shaky start.
Neves sums up Wolves transformation
If there’s one player who epitomises the success story so far that is Wolves’ new era it is midfield metronome Ruben Neves.
It was a huge gamble for him to move from Porto to England – the transfer was questioned by many considering Neves’ frail confidence at the time – and it could have easily gone badly had Wolves failed to achieve promotion.
But Neves showed great self-confidence and ability to become a key cog of Nuno Espirito Santo’s team. Only three outfield players clocked up more minutes for Wolves than Neves did last season and experiencing the physicality and rough nature of the Championship will stand the 21-year-old in good stead as he embarks on his maiden Premier League campaign.
While at Porto, Neves was dubbed ‘the Portuguese Busquets.’ High praise indeed. Although it would be wide of the mark to compare the two players now, a good top flight season for Neves would surely see him becoming a regular in the Portugal squad and closer to reaching his extremely high potential.