Fabio Silva: Wolves chairman Jeff Shi is a father figure to me
Fabio Silva has had many detractors in his short career, but one man continues to stand by him.
It was common knowledge that Wolves chairman Jeff Shi was very fond of Silva – describing the £35million signing as a potential ‘generational talent’.
But it will come as a shock to some to hear just how close Shi and Silva are.
When he arrived as an 18-year-old in 2020, the young forward was thrown in at the deep end after Raul Jimenez’s head injury just four months into the season.
Shi was very vocal about Silva’s potential and unique talent, but in a new interview the player has revealed just how important the chairman has been for him.
Silva said: “I love Jeff. Jeff for me is like a father and I appreciate a lot the way he takes care of me and always says good things about me.
“Since the first day we created a very good relationship.
“If I have a problem or need something, I always go to him and he is always free to speak to me and see my side of the story. He always listens.
“The relationship always starts with respect, but my relationship with him is more than that. It’s more like a father and a son, because the way he has taken care of me is amazing.
“When you speak about Wolves, I don’t know what will happen in the future or next season, but for me Jeff will always be an important person and I will never forget him.
“The conversations we have had are amazing.”
Not only does Silva wax lyrical about Shi’s influence and support, he continuously refers back to the chairman as he discusses his career and the hard road he has travelled.
Wolves made a huge investment in Silva, who was the club’s record transfer until this summer, and were left in a difficult position at the end of last season.
Silva had played second fiddle all season and failed to score a single goal. His confidence was shattered and he needed to play – so the player himself asked for a loan move.
“In this moment of course Wolves wanted me to stay because I am an investment for the club and they wanted me to stay again but at that moment I had to think of myself, not of other people or the club,” Silva added. “I have to think of myself and when I spoke to Jeff I said ‘I need to go again to win back my confidence in myself and have the chance to feel important in a team’.
“Because last year was tough for me and some things were very difficult so I needed to go again to feel happy and to feel important and we had two, three or four conversations and then we found a solution.
“I was 18 years old and I came to Wolves for 40 million euros in the best league in the world. It was difficult.
“Normally players of this age, 18, 19 or 20 in Portugal either play in the first team or play in the second division.
“So I had to grow up quick because I didn’t have the normal time to grow up.
“Then you’re 19 and think it’s going to be different and you’re going to play more time with a Portuguese coach whose brother trained me at Benfica.
“I thought ‘this is going to be amazing’ and then after everything went on the other side.
“I didn’t play or have chance to show myself and I didn’t score so it was a little tough.
“I’m a football player but I’m a human as well and I have feelings.
“Sometimes I cry, sometimes I feel bad, sometimes I’m happy and people sometimes don’t understand but I’m a human too.”
However, the solution to send Silva to Belgium is, so far, paying off.
Silva scored five goals in his opening six games for Anderlecht and has so far scored nine goals in 26 appearances.
That lightning start, and perhaps more importantly the regular minutes, have been invaluable to a 20-year-old who is still learning his trade.
He added: “It’s amazing for me. I tried to come here with the ambition to win again my confidence, to win again the pleasure to play football, to feel important to the team.
“I know for a striker it’s important to score and get assists and be important to play each game and have the chance to miss and next game you go to have the chance to miss again.
“This is the most important for a striker and more at my age, this is important.
“You need to have the chance to miss and to improve so I am happy here and with the things I do here until now.
“But I am an ambitious player and I always want more so I will try to do more in the second half of the season to help Anderlecht.
“Every player wants to play for sure, but at my age, when you are young, you need to play and you need to miss and have the chance to feel some environments and feel new things.
“You have to have this to grow up. This is why I came here, to feel this and to get myself inside to be good.
“That’s what I try to do. I’m very happy to be here and happy with my decision at the start of the season to come here.
“It’s the best step for me in my career so I’m very happy and I always try to win something because every day you can learn something.
“I like Jeff and every person who works at Wolves. I like them a lot an appreciate them.
“But at this moment I had to look after myself because last season was tough, it was difficult.
“Since I came here I felt from my first day that the people loved me, wanted me here and did everything they could to bring me to Anderlecht.
“They gave everything to me so I have to give everything to them too and that’s what I try to do.”
Before Silva was allowed to leave on loan, Wolves negotiated to extend his contract by a year to 2026, and introduced an option in the club’s favour to extend that by a further year until 2027.
“If the club wanted me to sign two more years on my contract then I feel the love from Wolves too,” Silva added. “If Wolves don’t believe in me or want me there then maybe they won’t sign me for more years there.
“So I came here but I still feel the love at Wolves but we tried to find the best solution for both sides, for me and the club, and when this solution came to the table we got together and did this.
“In my phone I have an application with a star on Wolves for notifications. When I see Wolves playing I try to have time to watch because I have a good relationship with some players – better with some than others.
“I try to see the games when I can.”
As Silva has referred to several times, confidence was a huge issue for him at Wolves.
Equally, it would have been easy for the Portuguese striker to stay at Molineux.
At the same time he was struggling at the club, he could have also taken the easy route and sat back, collected a pay cheque and hardly played.
But Silva has ambitions and to fulfil them, he needs minutes.
“I’m proud of myself. Maybe if I stayed at Wolves it would have been easier – I would have stayed in my comfort zone,” he said.
“I always try to come out of my comfort zone because I like to show myself and prove to people I can do it.
“For sure I wouldn’t have played the minutes I have at Anderlecht and got the goals, but maybe I’m in my comfort zone because the fans love me there and it’s the Premier League. If I go on the pitch and do something good, people speak. But I try to go out of my comfort zone because I like it and I need it.
“It’s very different. We’re speaking about the best league in the world in the Premier League, but I think people don’t give enough recognition to the Belgian league.
“It’s a tough league. The best team in Belgium, Anderlecht, we are 11th. The teams and players quality, we have good players here.
“Now in football, coaches work more, defenders defend better and they have everything to analyse other players and teams.
“It’s different of course to playing against Man City, Man United or Tottenham, with big special players, but people have to give more recognition to the Belgium league because people think it’s easy but it’s not.”
Talk now turns to the future and Silva’s standing in the game.
Matheus Nunes’ £38million signing in the summer made him the club’s new transfer record, taking away the title Silva held.
The young player mentioned the fee several times, unprompted, but is adamant that he did not see it as a burden and felt no relief when Nunes was signed for more cash. He added: “In football, the money in transfers is going higher. Every player leaves for big money and if it wasn’t this year or next year, I knew some big player would go to Wolves.
“Matheus is an amazing player who had amazing seasons at Sporting. I think he’s an amazing transfer for Wolves and I knew his transfer would be higher than mine.
“But football is like this. I don’t focus on this, it’s from the media, they take care of it. For me, it’s not important.”
Wolves are about to sign a new forward in Matheus Cunha and could add more players in that position, meaning Silva’s future is uncertain.
The 20-year-old is watching on from afar as Wolves look to move away from relegation trouble under the guidance of new head coach Julen Lopetegui.
Throughout the interview he has made it very clear how difficult he found it at Wolves and how desperately he needed minutes, and when asked if he’ll be fighting for his place at Wolves next season, he very much left his future up in the air.
“I haven’t spoken with him (Lopetegui) but he’s a good coach for Wolves at this moment,” Silva said. “He’s an experienced coach who has already trained big teams. He knows what he has to do in this moment, this is the most important thing. He knows what he has to say to the players to push them to get out of this situation.
“I don’t know the future, you never know. This is why this life is nice because you never know.
“I have to enjoy every day and spend time with the people I love, because I never know what will happen tomorrow.
“What I know is I have a contract with Wolves and I feel amazing because of the people who work there. Some players send me messages saying they miss me, some people working in the office and other staff too. I appreciate this, I feel that they miss me. I see the love people show me, but I can’t say anything about the future.
“I have a contract with Wolves, but I don’t know what will happen.
“We speak sometimes. They call or send me a message to ask how I feel and how training is. After games sometimes they say I had a brilliant game and where I can improve. We keep talking.”