A look at the Portuguese revolution at Wolverhampton Wanderers...
Our Portuguese football expert Alex Goncalves(@Aljeeves10) gives us the lowdown on the revolution happening in the West Midlands..
The Portuguese revolution at Wolverhampton Wanderers is the like of which we've never truly seen before. Ever. With a growing contingent of Portuguese players settling in at the West Midlands club, it is most certainly exciting, bewildering and unpredictable in equal measure. The city of Wolverhampton in awe at the stunning transfer dealings at their beloved club, the nation of Portugal gripped by Wolves fever - this project is nothing short of extraordinary, and Portuguese fans across the globe are well and truly up for the ride.
It is difficult to think of any club, in any league, in any country, with nine players all from one single foreign nation. There are always exceptions, but Wolves are, in general, like no other. A Portuguese revolution is most certainly the case, a well-defined, methodical project that has simply accelerated as the month have subsequently passed. With highly regarded central midfielder Ruben Neves - who, rather mind-bogglingly, captained Porto aged just 18 - joined by eight compatriots - namely regular full-time internationals in number one goalkeeper Rui Patricio, who has played 73 time for the Portugal national team, and Joao Moutinho, who is Portugal's third highest capped player in the history of the game - Wolves have got the nation of Portugal on tenterhooks, and are, contrary to previous reports, one of the most followed and supported foreign sides in the country.
The Portuguese revolution really dates back all the way to the summer of 2016, when Chinese conglomerate Fosun took over the club. Bringing in the likes of Helder Costa and Ivan Cavaleiro that first season - who are still with the club now - was impressive, and showed incredible intent from the Chinese investors, who did seem desperate to pull Wolves back up to the big time in as short a time as possible. With a contact most clubs could only dream of in Jorge Mendes, and a financial backing to rival any other, they were not messing around.
With the arrival of two Benfica graduates, people could be forgiven for getting carried away. But this was merely the beginning. Both Helder and Ivan, as talented as they are, were simply two Benfica youth products who never really made it at Benfica, and while their move to Wolves was reported on and duly noted back in Portugal, they weren't signings that got the nation out of their seats.
However, the following season, something entirely unexpected - almost unfathomable - occurred. Having already added significant Portuguese talent to their ranks, in addition to being linked with some of the Primeira Liga's finest in Luisao and Talisca, Wolves pulled off one of the most stunning acquisitions one could possibly imagine, attracting Nuno Espirito Santo, the ex-Valencia and, more recently, ex-Porto manager to the club to oversee the incredible project developing at the Championship club.
Fosun were taking Wolves onto an entirely different level; recruiting a manager of the calibre of Nuno, one of Portugal's most talented managers, to the club, while still only in the second tier of English football, took the nation by surprise with its audacity, and ambition.
The general perception at the time was, perhaps quite rightly, "why on earth would a Champions League manager be willing to drop down to lower league football abroad?" A risk unquestionably, a shock undoubtedly. And that was the turning point for Wolves, the moment they hit the headlines in Portugal and people suddenly stood up to take note. Even to this day, attracting Nuno Espirito Santo to the club may have been the greatest piece of business of all carried out at Wolves since Fosun took over. He was the trigger, the inspiration, that encouraged so many of the impending signings to make the same leap across to Wolverhampton.
Indeed, following Nuno to the Championship club were compatriots and fellow Portista's Ruben Neves, who signed for Wolves for a club and league record fee, and Diogo Jota, who performed admirably at Porto while on loan at the club the previous season. These were not just highly-regarded Portuguese prospects, but U21 internationals of Champions League calibre. A simply unbelievable, almost video game level couple of signings. Improbable, unbelievable, surreal. Any fan of Portuguese football would agree. Quality players, destined for greatness, took the dive down to a lower tier of professional football to join the project at Wolverhampton. And it undoubtedly paid off.
With both Neves and Jota came the arrival of fellow Portuguese players in starlet Ruben Vinagre and centre-back Roderick Miranda, and the Portuguese contingent at Wolves reached an entirely new level. Wolves eventually got promoted that very season, on the first attempt under Nuno, storming to the Championship title by finishing on 99 points, 9 points above their nearest rival Cardiff in the table.
And if their Championship endeavours in the transfer market weren't incredible enough, their Premier League business all but blew their previous dealings out of the water. Not content with bringing in top quality Portuguese talent from the Primeria Liga, Wolves went a giant step further, recruiting a couple of fully-fledged Portuguese internationals in the nation's number one goalkeeper and Sporting legend Rui Patricio, and the nation's third most capped international in history, Joao Moutinho. A stunning, scarcely believable pair of additions, and triggered further foreign support for the historic West Midlands club.
But of course, while many in Portugal are both fascinated by and in awe at the events unfolding at Wolverhampton, there is undoubtedly just an element of concern from the Seleção faithful, who can, quite understandably, see the dangerous side of the Portuguese invasion occurring at Wolverhampton and, while fans of the Molineux club may scoff at such a suggestion, it is worth discussing.
Indeed, many in the homeland of the likes of Moutinho, Particio, Jota and Neves, while being incredibly excited about the potential heights their newfound club could reach in the Premier League, there is always that lingering concern, however small, that things could go wrong.
While the business at Wolves has been nothing short of miraculous, such supporters of the Portugal national team do have a point. However unlikely it immediately appears, the thought of the project at Wolves failing is an alarming prospect, with the Premier League club now boasting the country's number one goalkeeper, number one central midfielder and, potentially soon, if reports in Turkey are going to be believed, the nation's top centre-back; thus, if Wolves were to get relegated - again, however unlikely that comes across as being - it would be an utter disaster for the footballing prospects of the Portugal national team, far more damaging to Portugal than Wolves who could always up sticks and try an entirely new approach.
Of course, the prospect of Wolves being relegated is very difficult to envisage; when you have the quality they now have to call upon in their ranks, relegation should never really be a concern for the Premier League newcomers, although it is always important to bear in mind, just in case.
Can we expect to see any more Portuguese boys turn out at Molineux this season? With Wolves, it's pretty much impossible to say, and indeed the English club have been linked with several Portuguese players in recent weeks. Long-serving international Pepe - who, even aged 35, is still Portugal's top centre-back - has been linked with the Premier League in recent days, and reports in Turkey suggest he's on the verge of becoming Wolves' latest Portuguese international.
Equally, Portugal's promising striker Andre Silva, who has been deprived of game time at AC Milan over the last 12 months, has been a constant source of speculation this window, with Wolves touted as a plausible destination for the 21-year old.
It could also be worth keeping an eye on Raphael Guerreiro who, despite being a top-quality left back, has suffered with injuries in recent months, meaning that his situation at Dortmund still remains something of a question mark. Could a Wolves move be on the cards? It's purely speculation at this point, nothing more, and there's no indication Wolves are even interested in the French-born Portuguese international. But his movements over the next couple of weeks are certainly worth watching with intrigue.
Ultimately though, who really knows just how long this Portuguese revolution at Wolves will truly last? But equally, who really cares? This journey, enjoyed not only by the millions of Wolves fans across the globe but also by 10 million Seleção fans in Ruben Neves' homeland, is one that is far too glorious and exciting to pass up. The nation of Portugal is with you Wolves. Do us proud!
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