Bruno Lage joins Wolves: The Portuguese take

Wolves’ new boss Bruno Lage has lots of admirers and a ‘pretty relentless’ style of play, according to a Portuguese football expert.

Bruno Lage (Photo: Wolves)
Bruno Lage (Photo: Wolves)

Lage has arrived at Molineux on a three-year deal, replacing Nuno Espirito Santo who departed last month.

The 45-year-old former Benfica chief has outlined his desire to ‘continue and improve’ what Nuno did in his four years in charge, and Alex Goncalves, the creator of Tuga Scout, insists they have similar personalties – but different philosophies.

“I think there are some similarities between Lage and his predecessor at Wolves,” said Goncalves.

“Lage is generally a calm character – in public it is very rare to see him lose his cool.

“What goes on behind the scenes and in the dressing could potentially be another matter, but former players have spoken about him in the most flattering of terms – referring to him as a father figure or pointing out the impression he has left on their careers.

“That speaks volumes about the man behind the manager, and indicates he must be a strong communicator and motivator, and someone who commands respect.

“In Portugal he’s still viewed fondly by most Benfica fans; they recognise that what he did for the majority of his time there was nothing short of spectacular.

“When Lage was promoted to the role of manager close to the halfway point of the 2018/19 season, they were fourth – seven points off Porto at the summit.

“But he rejuvenated the club, brought the best out of some of his players, and ensured that they won 18 of their final 19 league games that season to bring the trophy back to Lisbon, something that looked so unlikely when Lage was first appointed.

"Benfica fans will therefore wish him all the best and overall, I think the public believe he’s deserving of an opportunity like this.”

Lage spent 18 months in charge of Benfica and won the Primeira Liga title in 18/19, before leaving last summer.

Goncalves watched them regularly over the course of his reign and says that four goals a game, at one point, was ‘perfectly normal’.

He believes a ‘slightly more balanced approach’ may have to be adopted in the Premier League, though.

“Benfica’s football under Lage was quite sensational at times. It was ambitious, it was pretty relentless, and ultimately it was very effective,” said Goncalves.

“The goalscoring prowess seen under Lage in his first season was the kind we haven’t seen at Benfica in decades. The 10-0 win over Nacional certainly comes to mind.

"In the Portuguese top flight, a team hadn’t scored 10 goals in a single game in over 50 years before that 10-0 demolition, so it really was potentially a once in a lifetime scoreline.

“It proved perfectly normal under Lage for Benfica to score at least four goals in individual games, though, such was the attacking football on display.

“It did peter out in his second season in charge, but Benfica were still winning with great regularity for the majority of that second season, even if it did finish in stunningly poorly fashion, picking up a miserable 10 points from Lage’s final 10 league games in charge.

“That was a horror show that he just couldn’t seem to find an answer to, but you would like to think that he’s a better manager now because of it.

“Nevertheless, overall Benfica were often entertaining and offensive under the leadership of Lage, and that approach deserves to be admired.

“Whether this attacking style of football will be successful in the Premier League is another matter, though.

“In Portugal, many of the teams Benfica face will spend most games sitting back and trying to frustrate and contain the heavyweights from Lisbon, and there is generally not as much danger of being exposed defensively when overcommitting offensively.

"Breaking down these kinds of sides effectively is in itself a great skill, but in the Premier League, that will not be as much of an issue, with teams generally of similar standards.

“A slightly more balanced approach would probably be more suitable while in charge of Wolves, but attacking football, in general, can be very successful in every league if you have the right personnel to carry it out.”

While Lage is preparing to start pre-season with his new squad on July 5, the club will also be looking at potential new recruits to suit his approach.

Goncalves would not be surprised if a couple of Lage’s former stars at Benfica followed him to Molineux as well.

“It does depend on the system Lage would opt to implement while at Wolves,” he said.

“Assuming Lage does stick to something similar to his fluid 4-4-2 though, he will likely be looking for two defensively solid central midfielders to ensure Wolves are able to maintain control of the middle of the park, so Florentino Luis is a good possibility.

“It’s not yet clear what Benfica’s plans for him will be this summer, but it is possible that he could be available, either on loan or on a permanent deal for the correct price.

“After an unsuccessful loan spell at Monaco, Florentino will be looking for more game time in the upcoming season, and a reunion with Lage, who is really the only senior manager to show complete faith in him and give him the chance to play consistently, could be exactly what he needs.

“Carlos Vinicius is another player who had good success at Benfica under the leadership of Lage and he could do very well in the Premier League if actually given a chance to play with some regularity.

“He was also highly impressive under Lage, leading some to think that he could be Benfica’s next star to be sold for over 100million euros, but it just hasn’t worked out for him since those days under Lage’s management.

“Wolves are also likely to need a new goalkeeper this window, so Benfica’s Odysseas Vlachodimos is a reasonable option. He was the undisputed No.1 under Lage, but had his game time considerably reduced this season after the summer arrival of Helton Leite.

“Don’t forget Pizzi either. His numbers were exceptional under Lage, scoring 35 goals and assisting a further 32 in 72 matches with Lage as manager, and now aged 31, he may be looking for one more move abroad while he still has the chance.”

Goncalves added: “Obviously Lage won’t be signing all of those players while at Wolves, but it wouldn’t be a shock if one or two arrived this summer.”

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