Could the success of Bruno Fernandes and Wolves be a catalyst for more Portuguese power heading to the Premier League?
Bruno Fernandes’ impact at Manchester United has been more instant than even the most optimistic United fan could have predicted.
The Portuguese international has added goals and some much-needed inspiration to Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s side following his eventual January move from Sporting Lisbon.
But his performances, and sheer presence in the squad, have raised the level of certain teammates, and crucially improved standards on the pitch.
United are still some way from returning to the title challenging days at the end of Sir Alex Ferguson’s reign, but Fernandes is not a player comfortable with being an also ran.
He was the beating heart of Ruben Amorin’s Sporting side, keeping them competitive, despite exoduses of key players and the continuing dominance of FC Porto.
Despite not bringing with him the same superstar status as other new arrivals at Old Trafford in recent years, he has consistently established himself as one of the most consistent and prolific midfielders in Europe.
Perception was the main barrier for Fernandes in the Premier League, before he had pulled on a United jersey.
Portuguese football exists on the periphery for many Premier League fans, with stereotypes falling somewhere between the irrelevant and the ignored.
Cristiano Ronaldo bucked the trend for attacking players swapping the Iberian peninsula for the UK, but big-name signings including Nani, Ricardo Quaresma and Deco struggled to match expectations.
There probably have not been enough Portuguese success stories in the Premier League, and this has allowed general stereotypes to drift over from other European nations.
This has led to a growing disregard to Portuguese players amongst fans, despite notable success in the Premier League, according to Portuguese football journalist Aaron Barton from Proxima Jornada.
I think there is, and possibly will always be, an element of elitism to Portuguese players from Premier League fans.
The reasons for this are unclear, as Portugal has consistently produced talent from elite academies, from either Benfica’s famed Seixal academy or Sporting CP’s Alcochete.
Alongside this, the performances of Portuguese players in England have been consistent.
In the early to mid-2000’s, Ricardo Carvalho was one of the best central defenders in the world and his partnership with John Terry was a catalyst for Chelsea’s success.
Bernardo Silva was voted Manchester City’s Player of the Year last season and Nani enjoyed great spells with Manchester United.Proxima Jornada
The example of Silva, alongside the early form of Fernandes, has gone some way to altering preconceived notions of Portuguese players in English football, but the real turning point has been Wolves’ growing Portuguese contingent.
Nuno Santo has built his Premier League success story on a spine of Portuguese stars.
Santo took advantage of the meltdown at Sporting, bringing in Rui Patricio and Joao Moutinho, with Ruben Neves, Diogo Jota and Ruben Vinagre key in their rise from the Championship.
Wolves have established themselves as one of the most exciting sides in the Premier League, with strong hopes of retaining a Europa League spot, and breaking into the Top Four.
The astute presence of Moutinho in midfield, the goal scoring ability of Neves and constant pacy threat of Jota are hallmarks of Santo’s side, but they face increasing competition to keep them at the club.
Neves was linked with elite clubs before joining Wolves, and at 18 he was linked with Liverpool and Barcelona.
It was known he would become a top-class player since around 16-17 years of age.
Jota has surprised me, I watched him on loan at Porto and knew he was a good player, but I probably didn’t suspect he’d make this much of an impact, but I’m so happy he is.
If the likes of Neves, Jota, Neto get to the point where they want to go abroad and play Champions League football, nobody will stop them, but right now, there is no better place for this crop of players than Wolves.Proxima Jornada
The fact that the Premier League big hitters are looking to move for Wolves players hints at a change, with Portuguese players potentially becoming the next trend in purchases.
This generation of players born around 1999-2000 is one of the most exciting of any nation that I’ve seen before.
They won the U17 European Championships before going to win it again at U19 level, with the bulk of the same squad.
Trincão has agreed a deal to join Barcelona in the summer, and Gedson Fernandes could be a long-term option for Spurs.
One player yet to be picked up is SL Benfica’s Jota, but Arsenal and Spurs have both been linked with the Benfica wonderkid, after recently signing a new deal at the club.
There is also Florentino Lúis, SL Benfica’s midfielder, who was linked with Manchester City last summer but hasn’t featured much for Benfica in 2019-20.Proxima Jornada
With the success stories of Bruno Fernandes and the Iberian revolution in the Midlands, we could see more Portuguese power hitting the Premier League in future. Let’s hope they’re more Ronaldo than Bebe…