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Exclusive Nelson Semedo interview: Barcelona ‘dream’ over, but Semedo feels at home with Wolves

After swapping Barcelona for Wolverhampton, Nelson Semedo has no doubt that he made the right decision.

Having spent three seasons with the Catalan giants, Semedo left to join Wolves in 2020, in a deal initially costing £27.5million, with several add-ons that have likely seen it already surpass £30m.

Speaking exclusively to the Express & Star, Semedo reveals he felt forced out of Barcelona, but does not regret for a single second making his next move to the Black Country.

“I had almost everything good to renew the contract with Barcelona but we had Covid and they had to sell some players that could get some money,” he said.

“I noticed that they tried to push me out and I took the decision. It was the better decision because I left in the right moment.

“I knew there were Portuguese players here and it’s a great club with a great story, so I made a good choice.

“It was the right decision. It’s very hard to say goodbye to Barcelona but I felt I had to do it, otherwise I’d be there and not playing, so it was the right choice to come here.”

Semedo had joined Barca in 2017 and spent three seasons at the club, making 124 appearances, after leaving Benfica.

Aged 24, Semedo had made his ‘dream’ move and looking back on his time in Spain, the defender has nothing but fond memories.

He said: “It was incredible. It was a dream for me because I’ve always loved Barcelona and I had a chance to play for them.

“It was incredible and I learned a lot with them. Great players but more importantly, great people as well. It was very nice.”

Despite the club’s struggles at the time the squad was still littered with talent, and none more so than seven-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi. But what is the man himself like?

Semedo added: “On a football pitch we don’t need to describe him, and as a person he is very nice.

“He’s a bit shy but he’s very nice. I remember in my first week he was asking me if I had a house, if I had a school for my children – this was in the middle of training!

“We were on the same team – there were three teams in training – and we came on to play and we kept talking and didn’t notice! He’s a very good person.

“He’s incredible. You cannot put a limit on his abilities because every day he was incredible.

“I remember in my first games he would go (past) one, two, three, four, five. I remember thinking ‘how can this guy do this?’, but I got used to it.”

Nelson Semedo (Getty)

Now, sat in an interview room at Wolves’ Compton training ground, Semedo cuts a friendly but fearlessly honest figure.

His first season at Wolves was a disappointment to many, including the 28-year-old. Unlike other footballers, he does not shy away from that fact.

“My first season wasn’t good. I couldn’t be me and I don’t know why, I don’t have an explanation for it,” Semedo said. “I guess I was not used to playing without the ball. At Benfica and Barcelona we always had the ball.

“Here was a new country, a different and very competitive league, and I had a lot of struggles to adapt to the football.

“My first season wasn’t good and I’m the first one to say that – I know it wasn’t good.

“This season has been way better. Bruno (Lage) has brought something different to the club.

“Nuno (Espirito Santo) is a great coach and person, he had great staff and I loved to work with them, but it was different. Bruno likes to play more with the ball and that makes a lot of difference not only in me, but in all of the players here. Now I’ve started to show what I’m capable of.”

Many footballers in the modern game can be almost robotic when speaking to the press, as that media training kicks in, but Semedo was transparent, amiable and seemed to enjoy the process.

What stood out was how critical he is of his own performances. No-one wants him to improve more than the man himself.

“If you’re not critical of yourself you’re never going to improve,” he added. “If you know you’re doing things wrong and you live it, you’ll never be better.

“In my case I had to clean my head a little bit and work on the aspects I needed to improve.

“You have to be critical with yourself in a good way because it’s important to help you improve.”

Having made that move from Barcelona to Wolverhampton, and all the culture shocks that come with it, Semedo has settled.

In fact, he insists that process was seamless with the Portuguese players at the club playing a big part in it. He says that did not impact his performances in the first season. There was a barrier up that he needed to tear down.

“I already felt that way (settled) last season, the guys here received me very well and were very important,” he said. “I guess it was more (about) me. It was not about the team, because they helped me a lot, and it was not about the coach or my family being settled, it was about me.”

This season, it has paid off. The wing-back impressed with a superb patch of form until his first injury in February.

His statistics, however, flatter to deceive with just one goal and one assist in 29 games in all competitions.

Ultimately, too, Wolves threw away a handful of opportunities to make a return to European football.

That frustration is evident on Semedo’s face. The squad are bitterly disappointed at how they capitulated, but the target is now – just as Semedo has done in his Wolves career – to improve and right those wrongs next season.

He said: “It’s frustrating. We had a chance to be there a couple times and it’s frustrating.

“We were so close and had a great year. Nothing will erase our year, because we had a great season and had a chance to be in the Europa League or higher.

“But we have to look forward. We will try to improve the little things for next season and do even better.

“It has to be the target (to return to Europe). We’ve proved we can be there.

“We had some opportunities to win games and be there but unfortunately we couldn’t, but we look forward and will work harder to be better next season and do even better.”

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