Here’s an easy question. What do Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, and Porto have in common? Yes, they are all football clubs from Portugal. But here’s another, more intriguing question that may be right out of a quiz master’s card — what do Sporting Lisbon, Benfica, Porto, and Wolverhampton Wanderers have in common? Nope, this is not a trick question. The answer, interestingly, is that each of the four clubs has eight Portuguese players in their first team squad!
If you think this is curious, you’re not alone.
How does a club in the English west midlands have as many Portuguese players as top clubs in Portugal? While it’s commonplace to trade players from abroad, it is a bit of an anomaly for a club to have so many from a single foreign nation.
However, Wolves are not just another English club. Not since 2016, when they were taken over by a Chinese conglomerate, Fosun International, while still competing in the Championship. With the single objective of being promoted to the English Premier League, Fosun pumped in enough capital to make this a reality within two years — a feat that would leave Wolves fans befuddled and delirious in equal measure.
But none of this explains the Portuguese ties that so apparently exist within the club. To uncover this, you need to look beyond the playing squad, and peer into the nuts and bolts of the club’s management and ownership. The manager Nuno Santo, is Portuguese – which to an extent clarifies the skewed nature of the squad. But a football manager alone can hardly rope in the number of players that Wolves have managed, even if they are his compatriots. A quick glance at Fosun’s list of advisors, however, instantly clarifies things. The most pertinent name on the list is football super-agent, Jorge Mendes — the man whose enviable client list includes Cristiano Ronaldo, Jose Mourinho, and rather unsurprisingly, Nuno Santo.
With the backing of Mendes, whose influence over the Portuguese player market is unequivocal, Wolves have managed to bring in a plethora of talent across positions. This dazzling list reads Helder Costa, Rui Patricio, Ruben Vinagre, Joao Moutinho, Ruben Neves, Ivan Cavaleiro, Diogo Jota, and Roderick Miranda. However, due to footballing regulations, the club’s official stance has been that Mendes is merely an advisor and does not influence club transfers.
On the field, Wolves play free-flowing football that today’s football fan craves. Last year, for example, with Neves controlling midfield and Costa and Jota scoring goals for fun, Wolves stormed to the Championship title last year, leaving their closest challengers a full nine points behind. Now back in the Premier League, and with new Portuguese additions like Moutinho and Patricio further bolstering their squad, Wolverhampton Wanderers continue to look up and ahead.
Progress in the top tier of English football is, without doubt, going to be challenging. With an established Top 6 consisting financial powerhouses such as Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea, the highest Wolves can realistically aim for is 7th. But so long as Manager Nuno Santo is given the budget to build his team and Jorge Mendes continues to show clients the path to Wolves, we would be ill-advised to bet against them doing better. After all, the strength lies in the pack — especially one that speaks the same language!
Prashanth is a happy cynic who revels in confusion and quite often, causes it. As a copywriter who works closely with lots of brands, he can be found shouting words like ‘leverage’ and ‘end-to-end’ for no reason at all. At the end of a long day, Prashanth goes back to his friend’s small, cozy home only to realize that it’s not his own.
Find him in the only place you really can — Bangalore?