The Championship Corner: How Ruben Neves ended up at Wolves

As usual much of the media attention this transfer window has revolved around the Premier League, from Romelu Lukaku’s move to Manchester United, to Arsenal’s capture of Lacazette.

By far the strangest transfer this summer is the capture by Wolverhampton Wanderers of Portuguese starlet Ruben Neves from Porto for around £15 million.

Ruben Neves is only 20 years old yet has 92 appearances for Porto under his belt, and at the tender age of 18 became the youngest ever captain in the Champions League, leading the Portuguese team to a 2-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv F.C.  

Deployed predominantly as a defensive midfielder, Neves has shown a willingness to roam forward and initiate attacks, resembling fellow international João Moutinho, and even Xabi Alonso.


Highly regarded

Reportedly a host of clubs were interested in the young player, including Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Fees of around £30m were thrown about.

Yet to the astonishment of the Portuguese media Neves has joined a Championship side that finished 15th last year.

A contributing factor could be that new Wolves manager Nuno Espirito Santo managed Neves at Porto, although he found playing time limited under him and was likely relieved when the manager was sacked at the end of last season after a frustrating spell at Estádio do Dragão.


Mendes’ influence

Neves is one of many players Wolves have signed this window, although Santo is unlikely to have had much to do with them.

Ever since Chinese company Fosun took over the West Midlands club Portuguese super-agent Jorge Mendes has seemed to have unprecedented control over transfer policy.

Santo, who is client of Mendes, took over when previous manager Paul Lambert quite understandably aggrieved that the agent would handle Wolves’ summer transfer plans. Neves’ fee is the third time Wolves’ transfer record has been smashed, after £13m for Helder Costa and £7m for fellow winger Ivan Cavaleiro.

Along with new defender Roderick Miranda, all these players are represented by Mendes.


Deja vu

Championship followers cannot help but be reminded of the relationship Jerome Anderson had with Blackburn Rovers following the Venky’s takeover he helped orchestrate.

Sam Allardyce was replaced by Anderson client Steve Kean, Anderson’s own son signed for the club, and fellow client Owen Coyle was in charge for most of last season before being replaced by Tony Mowbray.

Anderson reportedly played a similar role at Manchester City under Thaksin Shinawatra’s reign.


Far from over

Wolves’ transfer activity is far from over.

The same day Neves signed his Porto teammate Willy Boly joined on a season-long loan. Chelsea wonderkid Ike Ugbo is another loan target, as is Southampton’s Sam Gallagher. Leeds’ Eunan O’Kane is on their radar, as apparently is Dynamo Dresden left back Philip Heise.

While the FA has found nothing untoward with Wolves’ ownership structure, many football fans will see Jorge Mendes and Fosun as another sign of the increasing influence agents have over the modern game, with transfer fees skyrocketing along with the amount of money clubs hand over to agents each year.

It will be interesting to see how Wolves and Ruben Neves do next season. If the club find themselves in the play-off places it is unlikely The Wanderer’s will be complaining about Mendes’s influence, although opposition fans just might.


Written by Matthew Robson

Follow Matthew on Twitter @TheRobsonator93

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