We spoke with Portuguese football expert Alex Goncalves to get the lowdown on Wolves’ latest high-profile recruit.
This seems like quite the move with Goncalo Guedes signing for big money – are Wolves getting a good deal for him in your opinion?
It’s a surprisingly good deal. I think for a lot of people the expectation was that the fee would have been higher than it is. After all, the overall deal will see Valencia actually make a loss on a player they bought four years ago, and he’s a much more refined, proven talent now than he was then.
He’s also still just 25, which may be a surprise to some as he has seemingly been around for a while now, not only having represented Valencia for five years, but also having been on the books of PSG and, of course, Benfica too, where he came through the ranks and left such an impression in Lisbon. I think this is a coup for Wolves, I would say the biggest since the Moutinho signing.
What is Guedes’ best position?
An extremely useful trait of Guedes is his excellent versatility, and this is particularly good for a team like Wolves who evidently have a pretty small squad. He can play on the left and right, or through the middle, either as a striker, or behind or alongside a more traditional centre forward. So it certainly wouldn’t be a surprise to see him fielded up front during Raul Jimenez’s spell on the sidelines, but equally I would say he’s best more on the flank where he can cut inside or deliver a cross, as he did so impeccably for the first of Ronaldo’s late goals in a comeback victory over Ireland in the World Cup qualifiers, for example, after some deceptive dribbling down the wing. That came down the right wing, and we’ve seen him occupy that position many times, but he’d probably say his preference is the left, which allows him to cut inside more effectively. But the beauty of his versatility means that the flank he’s deployed on can quite easily change depending on the tactical strategy implemented based on the opposition.
When Raul returns, could there be a potential partnership there?
That’s certainly the other option. We have seen Guedes play more centrally with a more traditional striker before, so there is that prospect, and they could forge an exciting partnership. I think both have traits that would complement each other nicely.
What are Guedes’ strengths a weaknesses?
An ability for the extraordinary is certainly one of his positives! He has scored some absolutely exceptional goals in his career, he’s got a powerful strike on him. There’s that infamous one of him picking up the ball at the halfway line for Valencia before carrying the ball forwards, stumbling and falling as he tries to evade a couple of tackles, yet he still manages to drift past three defenders with some deft touches in an impressive slalom run, before chopping onto his right foot and thumping home. It was an illustration of his explosive nature and impeccable dribbling ability, rounded off with a showing of his end product. Just a couple of weeks after that remarkable goal, he hit a tremendous first time strike from outside the area which blasted into the back of the net, the sheer power managing to see it go in despite the keeper getting a good glove to it. There can be some extraordinary moments of quality when Guedes is on the field. He can also be the man for the big occasions, not only setting up Ronaldo to level the game in the encounter with Ireland, but also scoring the winner for Portugal in the UEFA Nations League final.
His major weakness? A clear lack of consistency really defined his time at Valencia. There were many moments he was exceptional – and that incredibly high performance level did last for a good deal of time in some instances – but too often that ability seemingly went missing, and he spent too much time looking so far away from his proven mesmerising quality. He just ran hot and cold too often, which was a real frustration for Valencia supporters. But when he is on his game, he is genuinely world class. Hopefully that’s the version of Guedes Wolves fans see more often.
This is the first time Guedes will get a taste of Premier League football in his career, do you think he’s well-suited to the division?
I think he is, we’ve seen a lot of footballers in the Premier League join from overseas and settle in well. When you’re a quality footballer, you can thrive in any division, and I think wingers particularly have a better chance of hitting the ground running.
Was it a surprise in Portugal that Valencia have allowed Guedes to leave?
Not at all really, he’s a player that has been linked away from Valencia seemingly every season since his move there was made permanent, and so maybe the surprise is that it’s only happening now. The destination is also pretty unsurprising, considering the link to Jorge Mendes, although equally I think a lot of Portuguese supporters would say he should be playing for an even bigger club, one that is qualifying for European competition every season. But the strength of the Premier League means that pretty much every club in the division has world class players that should be getting more opportunity for European football – Wolves as much as any outside the Big Six.
Guedes now adds to Wolves’ Portuguese contingent, would that have been a big factor?
A factor I’m sure, and more than that, I would say it’s the Jorge Mendes factor predominantly. Wolves can obviously sign players of Guedes’ quality with or without the influence of Mendes, but specifically with Guedes you would imagine it would’ve been more complicated, as I’m sure other clubs would have been interested and just as enticing. So I think the healthy Portuguese contingent makes it an attractive prospect for any Portuguese footballer, and clearly his compatriots at the club are enjoying their time at Molineux too. I guess the surprise is that it’s taken this long for a Portuguese player to make the move to the club this window!
With the World Cup only months away, is this a key move?
That’s an interesting question. I think it comes with an element of risk. It’s not ideal timing for a move in many ways, as he doesn’t have much time to settle before the World Cup kicks off. He was already very much in and around the Portugal squad while at Valencia too, so I don’t think a move was necessary to advance his chances of making the World Cup squad. If anything, should Wolves have a more challenging season than they did last campaign, specifically early on, it could hinder his chances of making the cut more than aid them. That’s looking at it from a more negative standpoint though, and if he hits the ground running and helps Wolves move up the table in the most prestigious league in the world, he’ll be impossible to omit. So clearly he’s backing himself to be able to do the latter.
What player in the Premier League would you compare Goncalo Guedes to and why?
Comparison questions are always tricky but in the Premier League, maybe someone Wolves fans know very well, Diogo Jota, is a good player to look at. Both have something of that explosive nature and tenacity, as well as a clear dribbling prowess and ability to manoeuvre with close control in tight spaces, added to their direct approach and determination. He’s also got decent end product, both in terms of goals and assists, and Jota has shown similar for Liverpool. Grealish is also a reasonable comparison, if we think about how good he was at Villa. I remember a few times where he had to ride tackles while dribbling towards goal, which is something we also see in Guedes. So they’re perhaps a similar mould too.
Finally, how much of a success do you think this move will be for Wolves and Guedes?
It all depends on the version of Guedes that we get to see. If it’s more often the Guedes on the top of his game he’s going to be more than a success. I think that he’ll have his frustrating games – very few players don’t – but overall, with his best years still ahead of him, I expect him to be a really impressive acquisition that entertains fans.