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Transfers that shook the club: Ruben Neves and Wolves

In our Transfers that shook the club feature, Football Transfer Tavern takes a look at deals that many may not have seen coming and the impact that they had during their time by using statistical data and pundit remarks.

Did you hear the one about the 20-year-old from Portugal who gave up Champions League football to join a club who had just finished 15th in the English second tier?

When expressed in those terms, Ruben Neves’ decision to swap Porto for Wolves in July 2017 seems hard to fathom – but with this transfer, the devil was in the detail.

The young midfielder had already played under Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo at Porto, while he was signed up to the Gestifute agency owned by Jorge Mendes, who had a close relationship with the Molineux club’s owners Fosun, as noted by BBC.

The transfer fee paid by Wolves was reported by BBC as £15.8m, which made Neves the most expensive acquisition in Championship history.

Noting the connection between Mendes and Fosun when speaking about the deal, BBC reporter Mike Taylor said: “The club have suggested that the current arrangements allow Wolves to compete for the sort of player they couldn’t have dreamed of attracting a year ago, and frankly many supporters will not care who is arranging what and for how much – as long as the team win more often.

“It is also the case that not all of the deals done by Wolves since Fosun’s arrival have been associated with Mendes, although those involving the largest reported fees do appear closely related to him.”

The Independent‘s Andy Brassell was also quite sceptical of the transfer, opining that it sat “so uncomfortably” given the involvement of Mendes.

With such intense scrutiny about the circumstances surrounding his arrival at Molineux, would Neves be able to justify the record-breaking outlay by Wolves?

His inclusion in the PFA Championship Team of the Season and naming as Wolves’ Player of the Season, along with his nomination for the EFL Championship Player of the Season and Young Player of the Season awards, suggested that he did.

Another prize he scooped as Wolves topped the division to win promotion to the Premier League was the EFL Goal of the Year award for an exquisite volley against Derby. That, and his other five league goals in 2017/18, was scored from outside the penalty area.

He signed a new five-year contract at Molineux in summer 2018 and contributed five more goals last season as Wolves finished seventh in the Premier League to earn European qualification.

Neves’ penchant for excellent long-range goals came to the fore again in the FA Cup win over Liverpool last January, his 30-yard thunderbolt in a 2-1 victory being named as the Goal of the Round in a BBC website poll, while he also netted from distance on his Premier League debut against Everton.

This season, he captained Wolves in the absence of Conor Coady in the Carabao Cup win over Reading, having been the youngest player to ever skipper a team in the Champions League at 18 during his Porto days.

His latest goal for the club was yet another peach, a shot from the edge of the penalty area from Joao Moutinho’s well-worked free-kick opening the scoring in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa in the Premier League last Sunday. [via Sky Sports]

Neves’ appearance in the 1-1 draw at Arsenal earlier this month was his 100th for Wolves, with 14 goals for the club in that time.

His move from the Champions League to the Championship two years ago was a bold one which attracted quite a bit of scrutiny from some journalists, but in helping Wolves to go from mid-table in the second tier to the verge of the Europa League knockout rounds, the 22-year-old has vindicated this massive career decision.

Wolves fans, how shocked were you when Neves arrived in 2017 and how big an impact has he had in his time at Molineux? Share your views in the comments section below!

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Transfers that shook the club: Ruben Neves and Wolves
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