When Raul Jimenez moved to Wolverhampton Wanderers from Benfica on loan last summer, his motive was quite clear; convince Wolves to sign him permanently for around £30m. As another summer approaches, however, Nuno Espirito Santo would be lucky to still hold on to the Mexican.
Jimenez’s arrival in England wasn’t particularly spectacular, overshadowed by more glamorous names. Alisson Becker, Lucas Torreira, and Fred were by a distance astute buys. Even at the Molineux, he wasn’t top of the shopping spree that featured over a dozen fresh products.
Atletico Madrid traded Johnny Castro and Diego Jota for almost £40m. Rui Patricio (Sporting Lisbon) and Willy Bolly (FC Porto) cost the club around £30m. They coughed out £10 less for Adama Traore alone. The worn Joao Moutinho required £5m. Jimenez, meanwhile, joined for half that figure.
But the 27-year-old would prospectively solve a bane in Santo’s squad. The Portuguese tactician craved for a reputable poacher to at the end of an attractive, intense attacking football. Leo Bonatini was grossly inconsistent to be relied upon. The onus was on the Mexican to deliver the goods else booted out in the summer. So far, he has done so with aplomb.
Jimenez is tearing aside Premier League defences like a poacher familiar with the terrain. His predatory instinct is firing Wolves towards an unforgettable campaign. With 11 league goals, he is nearing his personal best return of 16 at Club America. Tuck two more strikes in the FA Cup, that’s 13 for the Mexican across all competitions.
But it’s not just the goals that have pushed Wolves into seventh place in the league standings. The liberal frontman has also registered a further six league assists in 2386 minutes. That equals a goal contribution in every 140 minutes.
Jimenez is certainly not a lone wolf. His exceptional work ethic, renewable energy and willingness to bring others into the game is absolutely phenomenal. He plays with the intention of providing for the pack. Already, Jimenez has played double the minutes with Wolves this year than any of his previous seasons since leaving Club America.
“He’s been huge for us, he really has. He’s a brilliant footballer but at the same time he’s a fantastic person. He’s fitted into the changing room seamlessly,” said captain Conor Coady.
But for the Mexican, it’s about remaining in the Premier League. According to the Benfica forward, a permanent contract with Wolves is ultimate.
“I want people to think I am someone they want to have here,” he said. “But we have to wait and see what decisions they take. That decision does not belong to me. I feel good here, I’m fine, but that’s the decision of other people. We feel amazing. We know that we have a great team to compete and we’ve done good things to be in this position. Maybe we can go up in the table.”
Whether or not the West Midlands side ultimately succumbs, Jimenez has exceeded expectations. Other Premier League sides would definitely circle around with a pen and paper.
Written by Toby Prince
Follow Toby on Twitter @prinzToby
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