On 8th July 2017, Wolverhampton Wanderers shocked the football world by bringing Ruben Neves to the Championship. He joined from Porto for around £16m with a reputation for being one of the most promising midfield players in Europe and one that was expected to move on to one of the bigger clubs on the continent.
Writer: DJ Wolves
His first season with Wolves saw him named Championship player of the season, young player of the season, and he was named in the Championship team of the season as Wolves went on to win the division. He was also voted Wolves player of the season by both the fans and his fellow players, and his goal against Derby County was voted goal of the season. And he showed very quickly that the step up to the Premier League wasn’t going to be a problem as he got one goal and one assist in Wolves first match of the season against Everton at Molineux.
He is now established in the Portugal national team to demonstrate that his move to a Championship team has not held back his career. And yet even amongst some Wolves supporters I sometimes wonder if what he brings to the game is fully appreciated. Of course when he knocks in goals from 25 or 30 yards his name hits the headlines, and he has scored such goals a dozen times for Wolves now. His 50 yard cross-field balls to the wing backs used to bring gasps of approval from the Molineux faithful, now those passes are just a regular feature of watching him play.
But it isn’t just the spectacular that he brings to the game. He will often sit deep to fill the gaps ahead of the defence and even sit as deep as the centre backs at times to bring calm to playing the ball out of defence. He gets in more than his fair share of tackles and blocks, and his quick short passing as well as the long raking and the defence-splitting balls, are all part of his game.
Last Friday, 13th March, Neves reached his 23rd birthday. And we can only speculate as to how good he can become at his peak, and there may well be half a dozen years of improvement still to come. To me, he is the architect of how this Wolves team plays football.