Nuno Espirito Santo
Nuno’s arrival at Wolves may have come as a shock to some.
The Portuguese manager has reached two cup finals with Portuguese minors Rio Ave, guided Valencia to a fourth place in La Liga, their best position the last six years, and helped Porto to the round of 16 in last year’s Champions League.
Last summer, Nuno returned to Portugal and Porto, where he as a footballer spent 6 seasons, mostly as a backup goalie, and won 10 titles, after 1,5 year at Valencia.
The humble Portuguese manager had two good seasons behind him at Rio Ave, but without the help of Jorge Mendes he would probably never have ended up at the Spanish club, who at the time was under heavy influence of the Portuguese agent through Peter Lim’s ownership of Valencia.
Nuno did a decent job in his first season, but halfway through the second he resigned as Valencia manager due to a string of bad results.
As a former José Mourinho student, during “Mou’s” golden years at Porto, there are some similarities to their style of play.
They both have a very pragmatic view on football and to them it’s all about winning.
But who better to explain his style of play than Nuno himself?
This is what he said to The Guardian ahead of Porto’s Champions League clash versus Leicester last season: “I think, but maybe I am the only one, that the defensive process can take care of the game.”
Nuno’s style is all about transition from high pressure and regaining the ball in good positions to quick and direct attacks to hit the opponent out of shape and out of balance.
Of course, not all appreciate this kind of football and the 43-year-old was heavily criticized at Valencia for his style of play.
Defensively he has worked wonders with all his teams, especially Valencia and Porto.
At Valencia he managed to decrease the numbers of conceded goals in La Liga from 53 goals the season before to 32 in his only full season at the club.
At Porto he managed to decrease the numbers of goals conceded in the Primeira Liga from 30 goals in the 2015/16 season to 19 during his tenure with Os Dragões.
The numbers really do speak for themselves.
Although he can refer to superb defensive numbers thanks to the way he approaches football, it was probably also the reason why Porto failed to win the Primeira Liga last season.
Porto’s biggest weakness was their inability to open up compact teams and tight defences, especially away from home where the opponents would lay low with a very defensive approach.
Nuno’s men had the chance to surpass Benfica at the table on several occasions, but they crumbled every time, much due to their incapability to decide games.
Nuno’s style of play saw Porto break their own record of most draws in one season, last year. 16 draws in 49 games equals a draw every third game.
That’s way too much for a club of Porto’s calibre and with the squad the 43-year-old had at his disposal.
As opposed to Benfica and Sporting, Porto didn’t sell a single first team player during Nuno’s tenure at the club.
Losing out on the league and not winning a single trophy for the fourth season running wasn’t good enough.
Nuno ended his one-year leadership at Estádio do Dragão with the club’s lowest seasonally win-percentage (55%) since the disappointing 2004/05 season.
Although everything didn’t go as planned for Porto last season, there were still plenty of improvements compared to the side that ended third the year before.
I think most Porto fans would be happy to let Nuno try for another year, but that’s not how it turned out.
He left a good impression with the players as well, with Porto left-back Alex Telles claiming “Nuno was a great person and every player loved him”.
Personally, I think the Championship could suit the African born manager.
In a league were Wolves aren’t expected to dominate as much as Porto are in the Primeira Liga and with the signings made in addition to his pragmatic, result-orientated and aggressive style, the potential for Nuno Espírito Santo to be a success at his new club should be huge.
After joining Benfica at the age of nine, Roderick took step by step from academy player, youth team player, B team player to, before turning 19, first team player.
In the start of his career he often appeared as a bit clumsy and with limited control of his body.
He was tested in several positions at Benfica’s first team.
Centre-back, fullback and defensive midfielder, but wherever they played him he often ended up looking awkward, on and off the ball.
After several years at Benfica’s first team and a couple of loans, the Lisbon based club decided enough was enough.
In terms of physic, maybe except for his body control, and personality, Roderick was more than good enough, but there was too much lacking in the tactical and technical department for the towering centre-back to be a success at Benfica.
He arrived at Rio Ave in 2013, where he would have Nuno Espírito Santo as his new manager.
Roderick never managed to establish him as an undisputed starter during Nuno’s second year at the club, but he was a great alternative off the bench.
He did start six of Rio Ave’s eight last Liga games in his debut season in Vila do Conde, but Nuno opted for other alternatives in both of the domestic finals they played that season.
He also struggled to make his way into the Rio Ave line-up in the following season before suffering a rupture in his Achilles tendon, which prevented him from playing regular football for almost a year.
In the second half of the 2015/16 season, Roderick finally managed to establish himself as a starter at Rio Ave.
Always a down to earth man, but ambitious player, Roderick was selected to be part of the club’s captain team that season, despite being out injured for huge parts of the first half of the season.
Last season was easily Roderick Miranda’s best as a professional.
He was a key man to Rio Ave’s defence, injury free, one of the club’s captains and the designated penalty taker.
Due to injuries and limited minutes on the pitch, he didn’t reach his potential before turning 25, but week in, week out he has showed what a great player he has turned into.
From a rather nervous and clumsy utility player at Benfica to a demanding and ball-playing centre-back at Rio Ave. The story about Roderick, the late bloomer, shows that it’s almost never too late to fulfil your potential.
Following that great season, he was part of Portugal manager Fernando Santos’ 30-man pre-squad for the 2017 Confederations Cup.
Roderick, who has more than 40 caps for Portugal’s youth teams, ended up being cut from the final squad, but it really speaks volumes of which incredible steps the 26-year-old has taken over the last couple of seasons.
Roderick Miranda’s strength, on and off the ground, and combative style is something that will suit the Championship perfectly.
He reads the game well, always remains calm and is also comfortable with the ball at his feet.
He’s not as dangerous from set-pieces as you would like from someone who is almost 2 meters tall, but what he lacks in the goal scoring department he makes up for in the defensive one time after time.
I’m convinced the versatile centre-back could have played in a top five league without any problem so Wolves and Jorge Mendes have done well to convince Roderick to play in the English second tier.
If someone had told me at the start of the transfer window that the youngest ever player to captain his side in the Champions League would end up in the Championship during the summer, I would have recommended that certain someone to see a specialist on hallucinations.
Jorge Mendes or not, I couldn’t imagine this deal to go through when I first heard of Wolves interest.
No disrespect to the mighty Wolves, but compared to the clubs that were linked with Rúben Neves, in terms of prestige, league, facilities and money (even with Fosun involved), they shouldn’t have stood a chance in the race to get him.
Top European clubs have been watching the 20-year-old whenever he has played, but Jorge Mendes proved to the whole football world that he does whatever he likes.
Don’t get me wrong, a move to Wolverhampton is probably far better for Rúben Neves than a transfer to Chelsea, for example.
At Wolves he will be a starter, which is absolutely crucial at this stage of his career, and he will have familiar faces around him constantly.
The Portuguese youth international knows Nuno and his staff from last season at Porto, Ivan Cavaleiro, whom he has played with at the Portuguese U21 national team, and former Porto teammates Willy Boly and Diogo Jota, who arrived at the club shortly after the midfielder himself.
With a coaching staff he’s familiar with, 3 former teammates and 5 other Portuguese colleagues there’s no reason for Rúben Neves to feel any homesickness in the foreseeable future.
It’s true Rúben Neves only started 9 games under Nuno last season, but it wasn’t because of lack of quality.
Neves competed with Danilo Pereira, the best midfielder in Portugal over the last couple of seasons, for the number six spot at Porto which made it almost impossible for the youngster to force his way into the line-up.
Danilo, as Porto’s best player, was going nowhere, which meant Neves had to find himself a new club.
Neves’ best qualities have to be his passing and vision and from his deep-lying position he can pick out almost anyone with his right foot.
Technically and tactically he will be on a different level than most in the Championship.
He reads and positions himself well and at his brilliant best he can dictate the game like only the best in the game know how to do.
He’s still a bit inconsistent and if things get a bit rough he isn’t the strongest mentally, yet.
That’s why a year or two in the Championship could really help toughen him up, both mentally and physically.
If everything goes as planned, Rúben Neves will be playing in the Premier League or for a top, top European club before the start of the 2019/20 season.