Image via footballfancast.com
It’s always tempting when judging a player to take a snapshot of a moment in time and allow that to be the enduring image of them.
If Wolves fans were to take Diogo Jota on current form, most would probably turf him out tomorrow.
Adama Traore would not necessarily have been missed if he was moved on at the end of last season.
I’m personally guilty of never forgetting Jordan Henderson playing for Sunderland at Molineux in our last stint in the Premier League and continuing to be baffled by his current status as Premier League-winning captain.
But here we are in the era of geniuses and frauds.
Creating a hero
There is no room for the slow-burn of gradual improvement, no grey areas and no ‘bad days at the office’.
You’re either good or you’re not. Getting to the point of this piece, Ruben Neves has had more than his fair share of critics.
What we are now seeing of him though, is the fulfilment and rounding-off of a talent we were all made aware of in his debut season, but seemed to forget in this first ever Premier League campaign.
Over the last 12 months though, I feel he can lay claim to being the best player at the club, maturing into one of the finest midfield players in Europe.
The irony of it all, is that Ruben Neves’ highlight reel feels significantly light on content during this campaign.
There was the early blockbuster against Manchester United, the lovely drive from the edge of the box against Aston Villa and the piledriver of a volley in the Europa League versus Espanyol.
These are all Ruben Neves calling cards, the things that have everyone outside of the Wolves community frothing at the mouth.
The biggest compliment I can pay Neves about the development of his game is that these moments are simply becoming bonuses to the real core of his game.
The raking passes and grace on the ball remain, but where last season you might often see Ruben Neves arriving at the scene of an incident seemingly delayed by his own lack of mobility, now he’s reading situations to perfection.
His own improvement has allowed the team to revert back to a 3-4-3 formation for the majority of games.
He doesn’t need the extra legs of Moutinho and Dendoncker around him anymore.
Most would now suggest Ruben Neves’ performances have outshone both of the other mainstays in central midfield, a notion which seems astonishing given the esteem in which Moutinho is held at Molineux.
I may be guilty of recency bias here but since the restart Ruben Neves has certainly outperformed his more senior midfield partner, to the point where Dendoncker and Neves produced arguably the most impressive midfield performance against Everton – although they weren’t up against much.
It was bookended by his involvement in the third goal, a veritable Ruben Neves ‘Starter Kit’, from the hassling of Bernard, to robbing him of the ball and the wonderful flourish of a pass over to his mate Jota.
It neatly wrapped up the virtues that Ruben Neves brings to the side when he’s on top form, which he has been for a while now.
Ruben Neves: World class in the making
We’re beginning to see why he was handed the Porto armband at such a young age as well, with a natural air of authority and responsibility around everything he does.
Nothing about Ruben Neves’ game these days feels like a waste of time or effort – everything is done with the team’s best interest, even if he does enjoy perhaps one attempt from distance too many at times.
He even allows other people to take free kicks, which irks plenty of the fanbase no doubt.
As we move forward, Ruben Neves’ prominence within the club and the team continues to rise.
You feel there is a passing of the baton moment on the horizon, with Moutinho’s talents perhaps on the wane.
If that is the case and we manage to hold on to Ruben Neves, we could be looking at a genuine world-class footballer spending his prime years at The Golden Palace.
When was the last time we could say that?
Vote for Ruben Neves as the Wolves Fancast Player of the Season 2019/20