Ruben Neves: A Wolves Legend who Continues to Shine
Ruben Neves bid an emotional farewell to the supporters after his team’s final home game against Norwich last May. It seemed inevitable that it would be his last appearance at Molineux in a Wolves shirt. But the anticipated summer move did not materialize. Instead, Wolves fans have been treated to a sixth season from Neves – and it has been a treat.
Wolves now rank among the 30 richest clubs in the world, so only a dwindling number of teams are able to afford a player like Neves. This has been a difficult season for Wolves. They were bottom of the table at Christmas. But the captaincy has brought out the best in Neves. He has emerged as the team’s leader, taking his role to heart – as any referee dealing with his chatter would attest.
Neves seems to take a perverse pleasure in proving that his commitment to the cause is still strong. Even with him, Wolves are not great. They are miserable without him. It is why, in a twist on the norms of modern football, few Wolves fans would begrudge Neves his move.
Nobody has started more Premier League games for Wolves. Of course, the story began before that when he was the club’s player of the year in winning promotion from the Championship. His outrageous volley against Derby was the goal of the season. It was one of six goals from outside the area in that first season, his reputation forged.
Neves has progressed and become a different player to the one who broke through under Julen Lopetegui at Porto, surprising many with his appetite to hunt down the ball. Tackling has become a strength. He ranks third for interceptions. He has improved in tight spaces.
For Lopetegui, who has followed his progress, this is not a surprise. “These kind of characters are smart”, he adds. “If you are smart and you are open, you are going to learn and the years will go in your favour. That is why it is about his quality but it is also about his character”.
Neves continues to make that progress and it is natural to wonder how far it could yet take him. One of the quirks of his time at Wolves is that, despite being one of the team’s outstanding players throughout their Premier League run, he has seen others move on.
If Neves does leave Wolves, expect him to seize the opportunity to join any midfield in Europe, in any team, in any league, and be comfortable. After all, he is a player that can make that next step, and we are convinced that he can.
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